Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tasty modern Cornas: Vincent Paris Granit 30 + 60

Tasty modern Cornas: Vincent Paris Granit 30 + 60

I'm a genuinely big fan of Cornas, the hearty, rugged charm and depth of the better wines not lost on me in any way. These two Vincent Paris wines present the modern face of Cornas and it is an attractive one, albeit just a fraction too new-worldish perhaps. I'm nitpicking though as I really like these wines. Importer: Echelon Wines

Vincent Paris 'Granit 30' Cornas 2010 (Cornas, Northern Rhone, France)
13%, Cork, $68

The Granit 60 just looks more serious.
The power of red text on red wine!
100% Syrah drawn from the lower (300m altitude) part of the vineyard slope (30 degrees) and circa 30yo vines. Described as an 'earlier drinking, fruit forward style of Cornas'. 100% destemmed and 12 months in older oak.

Lovely bright purple/blood red in colour, this is mid weight, faintly bitter and shows that warm stones Cornas character topped with with all sorts of sweet licoricey twists. If this is 13% then my name is Kevin for it is definitely warmer and riper than that! Pretty, juicy and very pleasant! Maybe a little simple and fruity at present but should expand in the bottle. Very likeable. 17.5/20 91/100+

Vincent Paris 'Granit 60' Cornas 2010 (Cornas, Nothern Rhone, France)
13%, Cork, $95

The fruit here comes from 400-450m altitude higher up the slope (60 degrees) sourced from three vineyards with vines that are circa 90 years old. 50% destemmed, 12-14 months on old oak

Less bright fruit, more serious violetty fruit and meaty weight. Whilst the fragrance is a little subdued that very firm mid palate is not. Dark tannins cap it off with style. So much vibrancy! Maybe a little simple but certainly has brightness and depth and power. Very young and new world fresh (no oxidative handling here) but with a withering, old vine depth to it that is seriously appealing. Lovely stuff. 18.2/20 93/100

Cooks Lot 2012 whites

Cooks Lot 2012 whites

2012 was a tricky vintage in Orange, the rainy summer impacting the reds much more than the whites. Duncan Cook has done well with the Pinot Gris in particular (a variety that I think has a lot of future in Orange. Gris, Chardonnay and Sauv Blanc - Orange's hero varieties).

Cooks Lot Pinot Gris 2012 (Orange, NSW)
13.2%, Screwcap, $19.95

Yields were down some 40% across most varieties in the Cooks Lot vineyard apparently, largely due to disease pressures. No disease on this Gris though, which was mainly fermented in stainless steel with a portion seeing oak.

Its a very pure and very clean wine with a real overt sense of cleanliness and freshness with a light touch of of floral pear and grapefruit. Lovely dry and fresh palate with bristling snappy acidity. So epically fresh and only just ripe. The freshness here is excellent, that angular palate a little firm. Regardless, this an excellent alternative to Kiwi Sauv. 17.5/20 91/100

Cooks Lot Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Orange, SA)
12%, Screwcap, $19.95

Whilst Duncan (Mr Cooks Lot) prefers the minerality of this SSB I personally think this looks a little too green. Horses for courses.

Really green and snappy nose of just picked fruit with hints of Sauv passionfruit juiciness. Its sour, fresh, very dry and rather lean, the herbal bits jutting through the mid palate. Nice freshness, just looking for a little more fruit ripeness. 16/20 87/100

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Woodstock 'The Stocks' Shiraz 2009

Woodstock 'The Stocks' Shiraz 2009 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.9%, Screwcap, $65
Source: Sample

Heavy bottle, old vines and plenty of time in oak - its every bit a modern Vale Shiraz.

This particular wine is drawn from 31 rows of low yielding vines planted circa 1900. Each vine 'only produces 3 bottles of wine per year' which sounds an impressive figure a the very least.

Looking closer, means if we take the standard Australian row and vine spacing of 3 x 2, equals 3,748 litres of wine per hectare (given that 3 x 2 gives 1666 vines per hectare). Given that you might get, on average, 750 litres of wine from a tonne of red grapes (depending on pressing, efficiency etc), we're thus looking at a yield of about 5 tonnes of grapes per hectare or 2.02 tonnes per acre. To put that in perspective, most of Hermitage averages a little over that amount, whilst Grand Cru Burgundy is quite similar (35 hl/ha which is just under 2 tonnes/acre equivalent).

In other words - and apologies for the digression - this is cropped at a seriously low level by any standards (though some of the dry grown Barossan Grenache vineyards, for example, crop at half this rate again).

Anyways, you can see the concentration that low yields give from the outset on this wine as it shines with obvious and bountiful red licorice and plum fruit with background vanilla oak, carrying a real riben-esque, fruit concentrate sort of warm year style with a little Shiraz beetroot in there too.

The palate follows with roundness, generosity and a little warm, the mid palate drawing it forward without any obvious tannins and topped off with hot year alcohol heat. That generosity drives the wine, though the distinct lack of tannic drive marks this as a wine for drinking sooner rather than later.

Overall much juicy drinking to be had here, even if it is hardly a profound sort of wine. Certainly bound to impress many for the moment.

Drink: 2012-2019+
Score: 17.7/20 92/100
Would I buy it? Not quite, a little warm and bulky for me to be swayed to buy.

Rymill SBS Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011

Rymill SBS Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011 (Coonawarra, SA)
12%, Screwcap, $19.95
Source: Sample

This sees a partial oak fermentation. Can't hide the challenges of the 2011 vintage though.

Such a super snappy wine! Asparagus and herbs with underlying tropical fruit. Palate is greenish but not unripe, with sharply delineated edges. You can see every line and every angle here, which makes it something of a challenging wine to really love. A little more fruit sweetness would go a long way here.

Drink: 2012-2013
Score: 15/20 84/100
Would I buy it? No

Perrier-Jouët Bella Époque 2004

Perrier-Jouët Bella Époque 2004

 Pretty bottle first, serious sparkling wine second.

Or at least that's the way I've always viewed Bella Époque, the Champagne itself just a little soft and broadish considering its pricetag and grand marque positioning.

Thomas Lignier on the sabre
But the more I think about, the more I question whether I may just be 'missing' the style. Is delicacy underrated in the Champagne context?

At a recent function in Sydney I asked the Perrier-Jouët global ambassador, Thomas Lignier, what exactly the style intention was for Bella Époque, just to get a perspective of where the makers are coming from.

'It's a more elegant and refined style of Champagne' he said 'it is Chardonnay dominant and typically very feminine'. In Thomas' eyes this is a pretty wine and is deliberately built as such - that is simply the house style.

This 2004 tows fits that mould too - its both subtle and delicate, whilst also just a little ill-defined, the nose all white flower and vanilla bean Chardonnay fruit (which is surprising considering that it is just 50% of the blend) in a quite reticent form.

For all of the shyness of the nose, the wine itself tastes fresh and long and genuinely well built, a Champagne that is citrussy, tight and artfully made, a more substantial drink than just the nose might suggest, even if it lacks some palate weight.

Ultimately this wine presents a conundrum. I enjoyed drinking it greatly and it fulfils the brief with aplumb, I just wonder whether it is as profound as what it could be (and indeed whether the intention is to aim for profound wine in the first place).

Drink: 2012-2020+
Score: 17.8/20 92/100
Would I buy it? No. Enjoyed my glass though.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Blue Pyrenees + Michael Hall Sauvignon Blanc

Blue Pyrenees + Michael Hall Sauvignon Blanc

Last night was the Blue Pyrenees 'Cellar Door in the City', an event whereby the Blue Pyrenees team turns an inner city venue it into their own cellar door/bar. On a warm Sydney evening the turn out was solid as you can see in the (blurry, taken with my iphone) photo to the right where you can see the affable head winemaking honcho Andrew Koerner dishing out samples to thirsty punters.

Sadly I managed only a very brief visit to the event, missing some of the back-vintage goodies that were open earlier in the day too.

I did manage to try three Blue Pyrenees wines during my brief visit though: the 2009 Midnight Cuvée, which looked solid, clean and sprightly, if quite simple and tart; along with the 2008 Reserve Red, which was firm, 2008 vintage warm, minty and blocky if rather classic; along with the beautifully resolved 2004 'The Richardson' Shiraz, which looked soft and hedonistically silken, though still retaining that choc mint regional twang.

After the Blue Pyrenees action it was off to Golden Century (a renowned Sydney Cantonese seafood restaurant that is a favourite of the wine trade, particularly due to its late opening hours, strong wine list and cheap BYO option) and I typically had nothing white and cold to take. Luckily the wine list did deliver, lobbing up a 2012 Michael Hall Sauvignon Blanc at just $58 (a fair price indeed considering it retails for $26).

What I liked about the Michael Hall Sauv is just how much texture the wine carries, the level of detail given to the wines production (handpicked off a steep slope, a short cold soak, wild barrel ferment, 4 months on gross lees) also evident in every sip. It's perhaps a little lees heavy at the moment (which fellow scribe Jeremy Pringle also picked up in the Rousanne) but the textural weight and latent complexity more than made up for it. More Australian Sauvignon Blancs like this please.

After a few cheeky Tsingtaos - and some salt and pepper mud crab - the final wine to open was the 2011 Elmswood Yarra Valley Chardonnay, a wine which looked really very clever, the fruit weight and winemaking carefully balanced to cope with that potent 2011 vintage acidity. The yeast and barrel work in particular were first rate (you can thank Seville Estate winemaker Dylan McMahon for that). For $28 retail this is very smart Chardonnay that I'd recommend without hesitation.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Capital Wines Kyeema Reserve Merlot 2010

Capital Wines Kyeema Reserve Merlot 2010 (Canberra)
13.5%, Screwcap, $46
Source: Sample

This has been in the sample pile for a little while now, sitting somewhat (rudely) neglected in the back of the Merlot section. There is method to the madness though as I had this mentally marked with a 'do not disturb for a few months' sticker. I'm glad I waited.

Glad as it was a herbal and almost dour wine when first tasted 6 months ago, the cool and wet (in Canberra at least) writ large. Fast forward to October and its still a little twiggy and sappy but now the mid palate has fleshed out to complement, the acid still fresh but now pairing with cool cranberry fruit and some very nice Merlot varietal characters and proper dry twig tannins.

Tip-toeing particularly well on the edge of ripeness, this is actually a rather proper, nuanced and fine boned cool climate Merlot and a welcome departure from much of the round simple juice that often gets passed off as Merlot, plus It's growing stronger every week. Good work.

Drink: 2013-2020+
Score: 18/20 93/100
Would I buy it? With bottle age in a restaurant, yes

The Jimmy Watson Winner: Bests Bin 1 Shiraz 2011

The Jimmy Watson Winner: Bests Bin 1 Shiraz 2011
14%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

This wine officially won the Jimmy Watson trophy (and 2 others) at the 2012 Royal Melbourne Wine Show last night. I tasted it a few months back but never quite published the notes. Seems the right time for it...

If anything this is a very atypical Bin 1 - it has a lovely purple colour to it that is bright, if not quite as deep as the 2010. It smells of generous fruit, of blueberry and spice and white pepper, the liqueur plum of warm year Grampian Shiraz swapped for something more feline and spicy and berried. A little dash of Viognier just adds to the berrues. If anything, this smells more Yarra Shiraz than  Grampians red this year (thankyou wet and cold 2011 vintage) yet still recognisably regional and varietal.

The palate backs this up too, leaner and spicier and more pointed, the acid higher and the palate looking a little washed out through the middle, though it still has a nice blueberry thang. Lots of pepper and cloves over light fruit with a faintly bitter edge. Little tannins to speak of but certainly a vibrant number considering the vintage.

A very elegant wine for Bests and a quite atypically lean and herbal wine for Great Western, this is enjoyable in its mode but far from my favourite vintage of Bin 1. Still, it's a clever style - just not my preferred vintage for this wine.

Drink: 2012-2018 
Score: 16.8/20 89/100
Would I buy it? No. Much prefer the 2010.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Ten Minutes by Tractor 'Wallis' Chardonnay 2010

Ten Minutes by Tractor 'Wallis' Chardonnay 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
13.5%, Screwcap, $65

Source: Sample

Of all of the Ten Minutes by Tractor whites, the Wallis vineyard Chardonnay is perhaps the most intriguing. What makes it intriguing is the crystalline minerality and the vague hint of sea spray (it is only 5km from the ocean), characters which - when combined with the lean, acid driven palate - make for a wine to have you betwixt.

If that paragraph sounds like a descent into the worst of wine esoterics, I apologise. I just really like these highly detailed wines and almost universally the 2010s have been wonderous pleasures.

As goood as they are, I did initially think this looked a little oaky with an overlay of toasted marshmallow and vanilla nougat wood characters, the oak still sitting on top of the palate a fraction. Still, underneath it's business time, the almost fishy wild yeast and long, briny, chewy palate showing a power without fatness that has you hooked, complete with a density of acidity and richness tusslin' with each other in the best possible fashion. It's like a Chassagne actually, complete with that tension between acidity and fruit power, the wine still recognisably Mornington Chardonnay thanks to that extra layer of sunny, fresh butter mid palate richness.

A classy, slow burning white of weight and length, this is superior stuff. Will only get better as that oak folds in too. Yes, yes yes.

Drink: 2013-2018+
Score: 18.5/20 94/100
Would I buy it? No questioning that this is fully priced. Probably worth it though.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Vionta Albariño 2010

Vionta Albariño 2010 (Rias Biaxas, Spain)
12.5%, Screwcap, $22
Source: Sample

This is imported by Wingara, the group behind Katnook and Deakin Estates. Wingara, in turn, is owned by Freixenet, the super Spanish winemakers best known for their eponymous Spanish cava.

A well made, modern sort of wine, this is produced in stainless steel tanks with some 20% left on lees and no malo. Some 20,000 dozen were produced.

As clean, gentle and textural as it is this is ultimately a boring wine, like far too many Albariño that seem to make it to our shores. It doesn't help that we really should be looking at the 2011 vintage wine, not the 2010, the style definitely not benefiting from bottle age. Yet there is no hiding the fact that, for $22, you can buy an awful lot of interesting McLaren Vale Fiano or Yarra Pinot Grigio or WA Chenin if you're looking for this sort of wine style.

The redeeming features of this Spanish white is the rounded mid palate, the lees work fattening out the middle and then some light pity acidity finishing things off. It's quite developed and round and simple but you could argue it is nice and varietal.

Nice and varietal and ultimately soulless. Pass.

Drink: 2012
Score: 15/20 84/100
Would I but it? No.

Leconfield Cabernet - the last 10 years

Leconfield Cabernet - the last 10 years

Did you know that the Hamilton family - who founded Leconfield - have been vignerons for 175 years? I didn't. It's an impressive figure too, especially given that the Hamilton's set up South Australia's first vineyard and are still involved with the Richard Hamilton/Leconfield business to the day (apparently), with a bow-tied Dr Richard Hamilton still all over the (modern) Leconfield website.

Whilst the whole Hamilton operation itself is based out of McLaren Vale, it is the Leconfield arm that is most famous, its reputation built on the 36 odd years of celebrated Coonawarra Cabernet now in bottle (and some handy Merlots).

I recently had a look at 10 of the most recent vintages of Leconfield Cabernet with winemaker Tim Bailey and came away impressed by just how much the wines have evolved in recent years. Actually, they've more than just 'evolved', the wine styles are barely recognisable from those famously weedy wines of the 90s.

It's not all beer and skittles though as I do wonder about whether the most recent releases are too modern. A minor quibble no doubt for they're certainly much more drinkable.

The following notes then are largely as written on the day. I've included some other stuff, choice quotes and comments from Tim too.

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Coonawarra, SA)
Tim acknowledged that Leconfield turned a corner in the early noughties, starting in the vineyard itself: 'The cropping levels in the 90s were.... a little above'. This wine still looked rather different to the rest of the wines in the vertical.
Noticeably stalky, herbal and dry, all ferns and red sand characters. Considerably more evolved than many after it with a sweetened beef stock edge. Beef stock palate too is rich and warming, perhaps a little warm and spiky but solidly varietal, rich and hearty, that beef stock richness offsetting the hearbecousness rather nicely. Liked it.17.5/20 91/100

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Coonawarra, SA)
A frost year with severely reduced yields. Interestingly, the winery had no destemmer until this vintage so everything was basically fed in as whole bunches! No wonder they were green...
Lots more black pepper here. A dark edged and unsweetened style. Very dry, unsweet tannins. Flirts with under ripeness and harder tannins but has some carry. Good but not great. 16.2/20 87/100

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Coonawarra, SA)
A warm year with quite big crops. Apparently it was about this year that the additions were reduced too, particularly backing off the tannin additions from about this vintage.
Sweet, caramel oak edge to the nose. A much riper wine in context. A bit one dimensional? Slightly hot and heavy element to the palate. Rather more bulky and warm style through the middle with dry and hotter finish. Shows the vintage though certainly a more rounded drink than the 2002. 16.7/20 89/100

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Coonwarra, SA)

A classic year and Tim gives all the credit to the vineyard 'the shallow soils of the vineyard give fine tannins and structure. This was my favourite wine of the lineup.
Perfumed and posited. Again the tiptoe between leafiness and riper beef stock. Long and well defined dark berry/cassis palate shows a deep and hearty sort of character though with quite high acid. Real long termer this one with a depth that is quite impressive. Top shelf. 18.5/20 94/100+

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Coonawarra, SA) 
Again an atypical wine and one that I think looks a little too open and simple. More oak too. Interestingly, Leconfield Cabernet is matured in 15% American oak which Tim thinks 'adds richness 3-4 years down the track'. I think I'm perhaps being harsh as it is very inviting. Just not as delineated as the wines around it.
A change. No leafiness here, just even ripeness. Plusher, more round, less definitive. Tannins are lighter too, prettier even. Less classic but much more even. Too even perhaps but certainly solid. The more times I came back to it the more impressive this looked. 17.7/20 92/100

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Coonawarra, SA)

Another classic wine from a classic vintage. I'll take the 04 and 06 thanks. The oak handling looks better here too. The more recent releases have 30% new oak and they're now 'looking for barrels with a longer, lighter toast' for better integration.
Lovely nose on this one. Retains that leafiness of the best vintages but with an extra slickness of coal and rich fruit. Softer fruit on the palate but excellent light tannins. Looks a slight hole through the middle but certainly cast long. Hasn't quite got the definition of the classic 04 but a much more even wine and hence deserves a similar score. 18.5/20 94/100+

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Coonawarra, SA)

Another frost year and the only one sourced exclusively from the Glenroy vineyard (the old Glenroy sidings). Lesser.
Lighter. More candied and redfruited. Leaner. Simpler. A little sweet caramel oak driven. 15.8/20 86/100

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Coonawarra, SA)
Whilst Coonawarra weathered the 2008 vintage heatwave better than some South Australian wine regions, It's still not my favourite year, particularly for even tannins and vibrancy.
A big eucalypty wine. A solid whack of eucalypt and mint. Dry and boozy, minty palate. Picked early methinks and not quite as long or properly ripe. 16/20 87/100

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Coonawarra, SA)

Back in the zone. It's all arms and legs at present, though certainly some promise.
Classical nose. Welcome leafiness in this instance. Blackberry fruit on the nose but retains the leaf. Dry tannins and big extractive style, looks a bit dessicated on the finish. Alcohol dryness. Wish the palate could match up with that nose though certainly some form. 17.7/20 92/100+

Leconfield Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Coonawarra, SA)
Very young but also particularly modern looking. The winemaking has changed quite a bit in these recent vintages too. 'The late 90s wines spent a massive 6-8 weeks on skins (which was just too much)'. 'Now they're pressed off between 2-4 baume with the aim of creating a wine of perfumed fruit but with plushness and length of flavour'
A rich and even sort of wine this one. Not released for another 2 months. Plush. Really plush, has a lovely pure blackberry fruit to it. Long and dry with soft fine tannins. Lovely rich flavours but is it a little too soft? Looks top flight, though definitely I'm interested to see how it looked as it settles down. 18/20 93/100+

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Cracking Vale Mourvèdre: Chapel Hill 2010

Chapel Hill Mourvèdre 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
15%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample

The march of Mourvèdre - as a single varietal wine - continues. Here it is in classic form, as brooding and effortlessly deep as ever.

Brooding is a great word for this wine actually (I spotted it on the back label too) as it is so earthen, unsweetened and coffee bitter, the reductive nature of the grape making for a wine that is very savoury, an overlay of mocha oak and a little alcohol the only sweetness in sight. These Vale example often look even more reductive than their Barossa floor counterparts too, making them even less sweet.

In many way this is the antithesis of the press-it-off-early, leave-a-dash-of-residual-sugar modern Australian wine style, and I do question whether everyone will 'get it' as a result, but for a wine of serious contemplation, long tannins and unbeatable power and length this is a real winner. Will only get better with bottle age too. Great stuff.

Drink: 2013-2025
Score: 18/20 93/100
Would I buy it? Absolutely

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Rosé 2011

Ten Minutes by Tractor 10X Rosé 2011 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
12.5%, Screwcap, $24

Source: Sample

2011 was a shitty vintage on the Mornington Peninsula. Sure we can debate the level of shittiness (some will just call it 'challenging') but there is no sugar-coating the fact that the cool wet conditions made it a tough year to grow ripe healthy grapes.

Shitty conditions don't necessarily lead to shitty wines though, with the most astute and selective vignerons still able to craft impressive wines by spraying, plucking and sorting ad nauseam. I'd place Ten Minutes by Tractor firmly in that boat too.

Indeed this Pinot based rosé looks pretty damn good, all things considered. The acidity is still a little pointed and there is a slightly herbal edge but the wine still has the texture to carry everything off, the palate weight boosted by judicious wild fermentation and 2 months maturation in old oak.

As the winery suggests, this is definitely a rosé for grown ups, carrying the length and definition of a much more serious wine. I liked it.

Drink: 2012-2013+
Score: 17/20 90/100
Would I buy it? Yes

Friday, 19 October 2012

Clos Clare Cemetery Block Shiraz 2009

Clos Clare Cemetery Block Shiraz 2009 (Clare Valley, SA)
14%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

The Barry boys have nailed this one. Hailing from an 18 year old Shiraz block near a renowned Clare Valley cemetery, this wine has always looked solid, regional and serviceable, yet never before has it looked so savoury, deep and well balanced. A massive triumph in what was still a heatwave vintage. High five Tom and Sam Barry. It may be blasphemous for some but I actually prefer this to the superstar 2012 Riesling right now.

What I like about this is that choc-mint Clare Valley regional glory. The expected hearty and slightly warm concentration is there but without the sweetness (of oak, fruit and alcohol) that seems to dog many Clare Valley reds. It's just a little hot through the finish, but otherwise the depth of Mint Slicey, is-that-oak-or-fruit character on display is so undeniably tasty.

Think Bin 61 but with better oak and less artifice and you're in the right zone. Bitter tannins a nice endpoint too, punctuating what is a very long finish.

Bloody ripper.

Drink: 2012-2020
Score: 18.5/20 94/100
Would I buy it? Yes.

Clos Clare Watervale Riesling 2012

Clos Clare Watervale Riesling 2012
12.6%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

Whilst I'm not convinced that, as Tyson Stelzer suggested, the 2012 Clare Rieslings are the best since 2002, there is no questioning that the open, ripe style of this vintage is appealing. It still strikes me as more of a red vintage than whites (and early reports about the colours and depth of flavour in the reds are also suggesting it is a rouge year).

This Riesling is sourced from the Clos Clare vineyard which is tended by the Barry brothers (of Jim Barry fame). They're smart operators and the wines show it too. Speaking of, I note this is (hand) picked and chilled for 24 hours before whole bunch pressing, a process which is arguably absolute best practice Clare Riesling winemaking from the get-go.

Unsurprisingly this a very handy wine too (again), if just a little too open and gentle to be 'classic'. That might be a little harsh actually for what makes this wine so easy and unforced is that it appears to be driven solely by natural acidity (rather than that pesky added stuff). As a result, the style here is almost oxidative such is its mouthfilling fruit profile. What marks it as classy Riesling though is the length, the drive and the fact that you can't help but reach for another glass if you're thirsty.

Good stuff, yet agin and smiles all round.

Drink: 2012-2022+
Score: 18.3/20 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes definitely.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Yarra Yarra 'The Yarra Yarra' 2004

04, not 05
Yarra Yarra 'The Yarra Yarra' 2004 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
13.5%, Cork, $100 (retail)
Source: Tasting

The best thing about this wine? Just how even it is. The tannic line, the delineated, lightly leafy aromatics, the utterly mid weight styling - all of it is so moderate, well weighted and 'right'. It's all very Claret like, which is not to say that this is a Claret impersonator, more just a great example of cool clime Cabernet.

It's very Yarra Valley 2004 actually, showing that hint of tomato leaf and black pepper that marks the coolish 04 vintage. Beyond that, bottle age has been kind to the palate, those robust tannins softened slightly yet still in perfect shape. I love these tannins actually, I love how lively and regal and biting they are - almost like they have a mind of their own.

Perhaps the only distraction to this wine is that little hint of greeness and angularity. Still, I'd rather a whiff of herbs than overripeness any day. Sophisticated Cabernet that at 8 years old is just a baby - it will still be looking good in ten years time.

Drink: 2012 -2024
Score: 18.3/20 93/100
Would I buy it? I'd like to have bottles in my cellar, though the price is steep...

Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Taltarni Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Pyrenees, Vic)
14%, Cork, $39.95
Source: Sample

Long regal cork, long regal bottle and long regal style. These Taltarni reds are unashamedly old school and built primarily to stay in the cellar for a while.

This 2009 was from the last of the Pyrenees drought years and carries the esters and liqueur edges to prove it. Still, the core of dark blackberry fruit, deep-set slightly resinous oak and warm currants over raspy tannins has this all setup for the future.

Right now this is hardly the most easy wine to like, yet you can't help but admire the walls of power and extract, with length a go-go.

Drink: 2016-2029
Score: 17/20 90/100++
Would I buy it? At an auction, as a ten year old, maybe yes.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Pepper Tree 'Calcare' Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Pepper Tree Calcare Cabernet 2010 (Coonawarra, SA)
14.3%, Screwcap, $42
Source: Sample

Jim Chatto, Pepper Tree's winemaking head honcho, is incredibly excited by the 2010 Pepper Tree Coonawarra and Wrattonbully reds and likely for good reason. This Calcare is going to need more time to come together though...

It's a minty, dark and very firm wine is this Calcare, the oak a big thumping wallop over a slightly hard, wall-of-tannin driven palate, everything signed off with some equally firm acidity and alcohol.

All structure, no curves at present, there is some dusty chocolate fruit in there so no need for alarm. Patience required regardless.

Drink: 2016-2022+
Score: 16.5/20 88/100
Would I buy it? Not right now, no.

Shaw Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Shaw Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Canberra)
14%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

A hard place to grow Cabernet is Canberra, with its very hot and very dry, highly continental summer and then cool autumn leading to ripeness challenges for the later varieties (like Cabernet). Helm do a good job of it, so its clearly doable (just a challenge).

This wine certainly looks to have struggled with getting things right - it is both minty and dry, stewed and underripe, suggesting fruit that was under and over ripe. Hard going, though it clearly tries hard.

Drink: 2012-2017
Score: 15/20 85/100
Would I buy it? No

Tatachilla Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Tatachilla Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (McLaren Vale, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $24
Source: Sample

Welcome back from the edge Tatachilla.

With a long and proud history of value wines, it has been very sad to watch your recent decline into wine boredom. If this Cabernet is anything to go by however, it's nice to have you back.

The positivity comes because this 2010 is easily the least coarse, most vibrant Tatachilla Cabernet in many years. Its still darkly coloured, meaty and blackcurrant jube drenched, the mid palate driving the wine in typical Vale style, yet its also juicy, the tannins less bumbling (though still bulky), the medium to full bodied style a little on the simple side yet still appreciably well built.

Polite clap for Tatachilla.

Drink: 2012-2020
Score: 17.7/20 92/100+
Would I buy it? Probably not. Would recommend it though.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Australia's First Families of Wine - a family snapshot

Australia's First Families of Wine - a family snapshot

The 12 family members + next generation. Photo from AFFW website
'1200 years of wine industry experience'.

That was the brief for an event held in Sydney recently, an event that brought together the principals from 12 of (arguably) Australia's most important family owned (established) wineries, with the combined wine industry experience from those principals over 1200 years.

Whichever way you look at it that is an impressive statistic, a powerful statistic that suggests that this group has the potential - if they can coordinate things effectively - to change the view of Australian wine internationally.

The way these 12 wineries (and wine families) can do this is not just by presenting their wines, but by presenting their personalities. Amongst these 12 families there are enough characters, enough stories and enough divergent viewpoints to be able to convince even the most sceptical wine critic that Australian wineries have something to offer.

At this particular event the emphasis was as much on the stories (and the wines), as it was on another trump card that these producers have to offer - the clever 'generation next' that will be following in the principals footsteps. These 'next genners' - the children that will be taking over from their parents -  are as good representatives as their parents are, presenting contemporary views and contemporary wines to help reinforce their belief that the future of Australian wine is family wineries.

With the quality of wines on offer at this particular event, there was no doubting that this is a pretty compelling notion too...

The Wines

I tried my best to both listen out for choice quotes whilst tasting the wines but the wines largely won. Limited notes in italics. Notes are largely as written on the day.

Howard Park Riesling 2006 (Great Southern)
Geoff Burch - 'From a very cool season in the region'.
Gentle lime toast. Gentle. Soft sort of wine on the palate in a ripe mould. Flash of late acidity. Does the generous style very well with just a smidgen of added acidity. Rather tasty. 17.7/20 92/100

Mcwilliams Mt Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Phil Ryan on just how hard the Lovedale site is - 'Lovedale used to be an airstrip used in the second world war'. 'The land is so poor that rabbits carried lunch boxes'
Classic sort of nose. Green fruit meets soft toasty bottle oak but with a very primary green apple punch. Lots of latent power for a riper style. Big fruit and intensity sits underneath. Serious lemon/lime sherbet power. Sherbety edge something of a ripe year note. Length is outstanding - it just goes on and on. Long and bristling with acidity. Maybe added? Is it too bulky? Very generous in its mould but backs it up. 18.5/20 94/100

Tyrrells Vat 47 Chardonnay 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Big glass really helps this. Has quite a deal of rough oak but also that lovely banana pie sort of Vat 47 style. Ballsy and powerful but perhaps a bit gruff. Alcoholic too. Retains acidity but gritty citrus acid. Will need quite a while to really come together. Powerful beast though. 17.3/20 90/100
Brown Bros Patricia Merlot 2004 (Pyrenees & Beechworth, Vic)
Ross Bown, on regional characers 'The Pyrenees and Beechworth have both been identified for their great Merlot capabilities.'
Certainly the least wine in this lineup. Mint/eucalypt aplenty. Slightly stewed perhaps, choc mint and tannins. Structured but also a bit stewed for mine, the fruit missing in action. 15.8/20 86/100

Hello birth year wine!
Taylor's St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (Clare Valley, SA)
Mitchell Taylor, on the history of Clare Cabernet 'Inspired by Mouton Rothschild, the Taylor's were first ridiculed for planting Cabernet. The 1973 was the first wine and won two trophies across the country'.
Looks spicy and leafy and correct. Lovely cedar nose. Defined. Open. Clare mint. Seriously minty palate has richness to match those tannins. Nice mid palate (as Mitchell looks for). Lovely generosity but contained, with sweetness. Rough, blocky tannins. Workmanlike but very real. Excellent Clare Cab. 18/20 93/100

Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 1981 (Nagambie Lakes, Goulburn Valley, Victoria)
Apparently this Alistair Purbrick made a contract with his father that this wine wouldn't make it past it's 10th birthday. He won a 1930s penny on that reputation and still has it to this day.
Brown ruby colour. Clear edges. Fully developed baked earth nose. Not much fruit left but would have been a rather tannic sort of a beast in its youth. Treacle and dirt. Nice richness still left and seriously dry, dirt stuck to the top of your mouth tannins. Still pleasurable, perhaps because its a birth year wine? 16.8/20 89/100

D'arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2005 (McLaren Vale, SA)
Chester Osborn - '2005 was a red year, not a dark fruit year' Chester Osborn
So much sweetness here. Sweetness of oak, sweetness of fruit. Probably too much oak? All mid palate. I feel this to be a bit big and overt and overly dense for mine but also a little condensed. Quite forward too. Not strictly my favoured style but it deserved acclaim for its power. 16.5/20 88/100

Yalumba Reserve Cabernet Shiraz 2002 (Barossa, SA)
Robert Hill Smith MW 'Shiraz used to fill in the Cabernet donut. The beauty here is the persistance'
Eucalypt. Lots of eucalypt, regal cedary Cab underneath if minty. Dry and spirity sort of palate. Is this the best bottle? Looks structured and superbly tannic but also too minty? Very backwards. I don't think this was a representative bottle. Classy but odd. 17/20 90/100++

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 2006 (Clare Valley, SA)
Peter Barry 'Straight people don't have the same complexity as those who are curved'... 'Armagh is surprisingly the first vineyard to ripen'... '3 weeks on skins needed'.
Super powered nose. Liquid treacle. Volatile. Incredibly sweet and luscious, a wine of ridiculous concentration and sweetness and alcohol, but it has this caramel, liquid treacle Viscosity. It feels... Right. There is such caramel sweetness but also much loveliness of liquid blackberry. A wine of whiskey like spirit but still has a place. I love that blackness.  18.6/20 94/100

Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2005 (Eden Valley, SA)
An early, warm and quick vintage for Henschke.
Woah. Intrigue. Fennel and spice. Much fennel. Mint and blackberry and meat too. Super intriguing nose. Just a smidgen raisined. Real graphite character to it. Minty, black jube and subliminal gravelly sort of character. Just a fraction warm? Super complex expression though. Love the cuts of mint through the middle. Has presence. Superb wine. 18.7/20 95/100

De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2006 (Riverina, NSW)
Marmalade. Orange juice. Dark colours too. Such intense sweetness! Anything but Sauternes. Sugar juice. Nice but a simple wine. Overtly sweet.
16.7/20 89/100

Campbells Merchant Prince Muscat NV (Rutherglen, Vic)
Ahhh. Like coming home. Super intense caramel coffee mocha fruit. Wonderous intensity and freshness. Very chocolatey and super sweet but with such viscosity. Lingers with a thick grained sort of chocolatey palate. Wonderful. Best I have seen it looking too. 19.3/20 97/100

Generation Next

McWilliams Leontine Chardonnay 2011 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Super reductive and fresh nose. Looks to have spent plenty of time in tank. Slightly sawdusty oak is not super attractive but the nutty palate and lemony acidity makes this tight and intriguing. Just bottled and fresh as the acidity and milky textural oak is very attractive. Wonderful step forward for Mcwilliams Chardonnay and serious intrigue. 18/20 93/100

Henschke Giles Pinot Noir 2010 (Adelaide Hills, SA)
Lovely bright cherry fruit. Bright strawberry nose. Lots of glossy cherry. Super ripe-ish and glossy but slightly warm and unyielding palate, finished bitter. Phenolic ripeness isn't quite even there but very juicy. 17.5/20 91/100

Yalumba Paradox Shiraz 2010 (Northern Barossa Valley, SA)
Chocolatey and glossy fruit. Super polished. Super polished and tight palate has rich flavours but just a little too much alcohol. Such a glossy berried wine that should come together nicely in time. It looks a little odd now but time should be kind.. 17.2/20 90/100+

Campbells Sparkling Shiraz (Rutherglen, Vic)
Has a big black, choc bullet heart with big alcohol but plenty of richness, molten fruit. Thick and black and bitter and unctuous. There is a place for this sort of wine. Super bitter choc finish. Yum. 17.7/92

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Wolf Blass - old, new and better?

Wolf Blass - old, new and better?

Wolf Blass Black Label x 2
To be honest, I'm historically not a massive Wolf Blass fan. Or, at least I've not always been a fan of the 'house style', It's a style that is more about winemaking and impact than any semblance of fruit, or indeed moderation and balance. A style that, as you can see by the reviews below, I think often doesn't actually improve in the cellar (it just gets older)

Of course my lack of love for the Wolf Blass style is more about personal preference than anything else. Yet the question has to be posed - would some of the older wines look better now if they had been made with less heavy-handed winemaking?

I think Wolf Blass winemaking Senior Winemaker Caroline Dunn has been asking that question too. More than just pondering, the Blass team of the noughties - of which Dunn is an integral part - is actually changing the whole ethos away from those sort of wine, as she thinks they're not as good as they could be (or at least that is the impression I got).

What that means is less new wood. It means less added tannin (still plenty of added acid though). It means (single) vineyards and sub regional wines. It means wines that are not 'made' as much as they are 'grown', the grapes picked on on 'fruit, rather than just what can be made of it' (as Caroline herself describes it).

Of course such moves are still a stylistic ideal, an ideal that is such a divergence from the Wolf Blass recipe that any changes are going to be gradual ones. Still, there is no questioning that the 2010 wines, in particular, are perhaps the best Wolf Blass wines in recent years.

Speaking of the wines then, I had the opportunity to taste through the following lineup of assorted Wolf Blass releases with Caroline Dunn and Matt O'Leary at a function in Sydney recently. As you can see there was a large spread of vintages and labels covering all stages of the Wolf Blass evolution. If I had to pick a favourite generation, I'd be fast forwarding straight to 2010, skipping go on the way through...

Notes are as written on the day with extra bits on the newer releases are in italics. I tried my utmost to bank my prejudices and just judge these wines as examples of their style. 

The wines:

Wolf Blass Grey Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Mint and oak. That's about it. A powerfully minty Langhorne Cabernet nose with very rich, dark chocolate edges. It's a quite dry and clinical wine actually, if certainly heavy with impact and oak. Ultimately this is too minty, too oaky and too angular for real love, even though I appreciate the power. Score sits somewhere in between. 16.5/20 88/100

Wolf Blass Grey Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Shiraz 2010
56% Cabernet, 41% Shiraz. 51% French 49% American oak for 18 months. 15% alc. pH 3.44
Lovely red ruby chocolate fruits on the nose. Very sweetly oaked and flattering. Bright purple colour too. Plump and red berried palate is surprisingly juicy and less firmly structured than previous iterations. I do wonder if this will ultimately be an early drinker (in the Wolf Blass context)? Regardless I quite liked it - very modern and affable, but attractive because of it. Deserves praise. 18/20 93/100

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2004
Choc mints aplenty. Lovely chocolate regional mint/oak combo. Very drying and backward style, with something of a hole towards the back. Achingly young. Aching! The extra generosity worked a treat here over the Cabernet. Very old school regardless. 17/20 90/100

Wolf Blass Grey Label McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010
52% French, 48% American oak for 18 months. 15% alc. pH 3.49
Very sweetly vanilla oaked. All red fruit and a hint of confection. Is this a little too sweet pulpy and juicy? Should build in the bottle greatly, but a high tolerance for rich oak is required. 17.5/20 91/100+

Wolf Blass Black Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Shiraz 1978
Under cork. Fully tawny colour, this was all treacle, coffee and leather. Drying and dry, this has still quite firm tannins and a fully resolved style. Carries a little fruit still but largely just tea leaf tannins driven. Like some of the mid palate richness too. Nicely resolved earthen middle. A curio perhaps but still drinkable in its mould. 17/20 90/100

Wolf Blass Black Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Merlot 1985
Cork. Rather more chocolatey and generous and youthful than the 78, this looks quite plummy and fresh really. Very chocolaty if quite scorched almond and concentrated raisined edges. Such concentration! Interesting if a fraction black and porty. I like how this builds through the mushrooms finish. Builds in the glass too. Enjoyable and entirely balanced wine that I'd drink. 18/20 93/100

Wolf Blass Black Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Shiraz 1996
Cork. Back with the sweet oak. A disappointing, overwrought wine this one, with too much oak for that fruit methinks, it's more like tawny than wine. A difficult wine to rate on that regard as personally I think this is a hulking bulk of oak and tannins with little fruit generosity. Yet many will love it. Do you give credit for those tannins? I think it can't be ignored. Too much artifice though really. I liked this less and less the more I look at it. 16.3/20 87/100

Wolf Blass Black Label Barossan Shiraz Cab Malbec 2002
Mainly Barossa, mainly Shiraz based wine in a lineup of mainly Langhorne Creek wines.  A very differ colour too - much more purple and obviously Shiraz dominant. I'm not sure this should even be a Black Label to be honest, as it is so un-Black label like. Immediately a softer wine than those around it with a sausage meat and plum nose that is actually fresher than some of the straight cabs. Really treacly fruit and lots of tannins, if lacking a little freshness. A fraction stressed through the finish too. Scorched tannins. I think this is lesser in this lineup. More stewed and less classic. Still has recognisably high quality fruit to drag it all through (and bump the score up a bit). 17.5/20 91/100

Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Malbec 2008
73% Langhorne Creek, 14% Barossa, 13% McLaren Vale. 22 months in French and American oak. pH 3.35.
Rather more purple and juicy in context. Just a fraction raisined and porty black fruit style but retains freshness. Quite juicy and chocolaty if porty around the edges. Quite classic tannins. Much fresher than the 02, if notably propped up by added acid. Still pretty successful wine. 17.7/20 92/100+

Wolf Blass Platinum Label Barossa Shiraz 1998
Under cork.Very rich chocolate fruit. A wine of artifice and added acid. Lovely plushness though. That concentration is admirable though - it's big and unshamedly so. You can't argue with that weight and tannin. Grange it ain't but high quality fruit underneath. 17.7/20 92/100

Wolf Blass Platinum Label Barossa Shiraz 2002
Sausages! Smoky sausage nose. Smoky, oaky and utterly divisive with so much quite smoky flavours and incredibly backwards fruit. Odd and intriguing this is genuinely rich, layered and has a real wildness to it. Perhaps the most interesting wine of the day. 18.3/20 93/100

Wolf Blass Platinum Label Barossa Shiraz 2004
Coffee and volatiles. I think this looks a little overripe actuallly which is plain odd. A luscious chocolate and rum and raisin style but also a fraction hot. What happened in 2004 at Wolf Blass? 17.5/20 90/100

Wolf Blass Platinum Label Barossa Shiraz 2009
Sourced from a block that dates back to 1914 at Dorrien in the 'Central North Barossa Valley floor. 22 months in French oak barriques. 14% alc. pH 3.37
Few would probably even realise that this is a  single vineyard wine now. High fives Wolf Blass. A Very purple and very Barossan wine is this, with a barrel sample esque freshness. Very plump red fruit and loads of red berries. It's even quite soft really, the tannins light and the flavours all quite generous. You would even call it restrained and complete in the Wolf Blass style. Top Barossan Shiraz in a very new school Barossan mould.18.2/20 93/100

Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Spätlese Riesling 2010

Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Spätlese Riesling 2010 (Mosel, Germany)
9%, Cork, $150
Source: Sample

Drinkability. Now there is a word that has been sabotaged in the world of wine, the concept derailed by copywriters (like me) who use the word to excuse away simple, characterless wines.

Yet the concept itself - the idea that a wine can be so appealing that you just want to empty the glass, and then the bottle - is the cornerstone of what makes certain wines great.

And great this wine (historically) is. Egon Müller, as grumpy as he may be (to me at least), has one of the greatest sites in all of Germany and knows how to make truly great wines. 2010 was a great vintage too.

The only question then is - does this wine do it? Does it live up to its reputation and its pricetag. To which I respond... it's got great drinkability. That's the problem. It is so pure and pristine and genteel, yet it is ultimately to linear to be profound. Its too Germanic and too rigid to actually blow you away, those grapefruit flavours and soft acidity are nearly perfectly formed. Perhaps too much so.

Ultimately I drank a glass of this with relish. It was tasty. Yet according to the paragidm of what makes a wine great, it is not great. It's too simple for that. It may well get there in time, but for the moment its just a lovely drink.

Is that enough?

Score: 18/20 93/100+
Would I buy it? For that price, definitely not. I'd like to have some in my cellar though. In other words, buy me some.

Friday, 12 October 2012

My 1001st post

My 1001st post

This is, officially, the 1001st published post on Australian Wine Review. That's 1000 posts in four and a half years, or something published every 1.6 days, a stat which I think is a pass mark in the blog world (maybe).

Rather than strictly celebrating this milestone though, I've actually decided that I'm bored with the way I post, that I could actually be expressing more by ditching some structure and concentrating on stories.

As a result, I'm using this post to declare that the format is changing - changing from less of a tasting note compendium and more of a wine diary. Expect less formatting, perhaps shorter posts and sometimes less detail. Expect more flow, much more wines covered and hopefully more posts in general.

Whether this is a successful move will be for you to decide...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Voyager Estate Shiraz 2010

Voyager Estate Shiraz 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
13.5%, Screwcap, $38
Source: Sample

You won't here me say this often, but the addition of 1% Viognier really helps this Voyager Shiraz. I had this particular wine in a lineup of much thicker and more plush South Australian Shiraz and it really stood out (in a good way) thanks to its more earthen, savoury and properly tannic nature.

Speaking of tannins, I do wish we could see more emphasis on tannin structure in many Australian reds actually, but its not going to happen when the prevailing culture is to avoid excessive maceration and press reds off skins as soon as they hit dryness. Good to see some of the more progressive makers of cool climate Shiraz in particular are addressing that, but its only on the 'dabble' scale considering the size of the industry. Of course the commercial imperative dictates that rich fruity wines will sell, but I think the pursuit of tannins will reward more in the longer run.

Anyways, enough half cocked rant. This is a bright purple coloured wine - plum jam colour even, which is apt considering the concentrated sweet berry on both nose and palate. The berries are edged with bitter gravelly tannins, fennel and earth. It's a sneaky sort of wine in that regard, initially looking a little too berried and bold but every sip brings out more little flourishes - an extra layer of tannins here, acidity there. You ultimately can't help but admire the craftsmanship and style of what is a pretty clever Margaret River Shiraz. Good stuff.

Drink: 2013-2020
Score: 18.3/20 93/100+
Would I buy it? Yes. For the cellar

Voyager Estate Girt By Sea Cabernet Merlot 2010

Voyager Estate Girt By Sea Cabernet Merlot 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
13.8%, Screwcap, $24
Source: Sample

A tricky vintage in Margaret River was 2010 and generally one that seemed kinder to whites than reds.

I tasted this next to a 2009 Moulin Lagune - 2nd label to La Lagune - and it looked a very simple and oaky wine in comparison. Not a fair matchup sure, but an interesting one.

This carries correct dusty Cabernet aromatics, even if they're just a little soapy and stewed. Underneath it's chocolatey and light, if nicely polished and certainly blackberried and juicy, solidly varietal and indeed sappy. The closer you look though the thinner this seems, the tannins jumpy and the alcohol obvious. Meh.

Drink: 2012-2018
Score: 16.5/20 88/100
Would I buy it? Not this vintage

Soul Growers Provident Shiraz 2010

Soul Growers Provident Shiraz 2010 (Barossa, SA)
14.5% Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

Another day, another killer Barossan red.

As usual with the Soul Growers wines, this Shiraz manages to balance the competing interests of fruit richness and intensity with a savoury side. Uncommon balance indeed.

It's still a chocolate cake rich, plush, ripe sort of Shiraz with plenty o' sweet berry fruit cuddled by unsweet oak. What makes this so impressive is that sensation of limitless depth, coupled with a vibrancy that suggests old vines and wisened heads, complete witj actual tannins.

Great drink now or in 6 years time. I dig it.

Drink: 2012-2020
Score: 18/20 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes, at a steakhouse.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

NSW Wine Awards 2012 Results

NSW Wine Awards 2012 Results

As a wine judge, there are few things more satisfying than looking at a list of show results and thinking 'now that is a smart set of wines'.

That's how I feel about the 'Top 40 wines' list from the 2012 NSW Wine Awards, a wine show I judged at recently (and thoroughly enjoyed doing so).

What makes this such a worthy list is the nature of the show itself - small classes (circa 40 wines max) and a very divergent set of judges (I was on a panel with a sommelier, 2 winemakers and a distributor).

As for the highlights, I personally judged a dual bracket of 2009, 2010 and 2011 Shiraz that had some superstars in it (particularly the 2011 wines - a great year for Hunter Shiraz) and a 2011 Chardonnay class with some piercingly fresh examples (a few of which appear in the Top 40 too). Unsurprisingly, quite a few wines in this list I've rated highly on this site too (so these aren't just wine show anomalies).

All in all I'm proud to stand behind these wines as great representations of what NSW can offer - the sort of wines that I'd want to drink.

2012 Citibank NSW Wine Awards Top 40 (in alphabetical order)

1. 2009 Angullong Fossil Hill Shiraz Viognier (Orange) $22

2. 2011 Artemis Wines Artemis Riesling (Southern Highlands) $25

3. 2011 Ascella Wines Premium Chardonnay (Hunter Valley) $30

4. 2006 Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Museum Reserve Semillon (Hunter Valley) $60

5. 2010 Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard “The Ridge” Semillon (Hunter Valley) $35

6. 2012 Berton Vineyards Metal Label Vermentino (Riverina) $12

7. 2007 Brokenwood Stanleigh Park Semillon (Hunter Valley) $45

8. 2001 Courabyra “805” Pinot Noir Chardonnay Pinot Meunier (Tumbarumba) $55

9. 2008 De Bortoli Deen De Bortoli Botrytis Semillon (Riverina) $14

10. 2009 De Bortoli Deen De Bortoli Petit Verdot (Riverina) $13

11. 2009 De Bortoli Noble One Semillon (Riverina) $33

12. 2011 De luliis Shiraz (Hunter Valley) $25

13. 2011 De luliis Steven Vineyard Shiraz (Hunter Valley) $40

14. 2009 First Creek Wines Winemakers Reserve Semillon (Hunter Valley) $35

15. 2009 Gartelmann Hunter Estate Benjamin Semillon (Hunter Valley) $35

16. 2010 Grove Estate Wines Nebbiolo (Hilltops) $35

17. 2007 Hungerford Hill Wines Epic Shiraz (Hunter Valley) $55

18. 2008 Hungerford Hill Wines Dalliance Chardonnay Pinot Noir (Tumbarumba) $30

19. 2010 Leogate Estate Reserve Semillon (Hunter Valley) $25

20. 2008 Logan Cabernet Merlot (Orange) $35

21. 2007 McLeish Estate Semillon (Hunter Valley) $55

22. 2011 McLeish Estate Semillon (Hunter Valley) $23

23. 2006 Meerea Park Terracotta Semillon (Hunter Valley) $30

24. 2012 Nick O'Leary Riesling (Canberra District) $25

25. 2012 Orange Highland Wines Sauvignon Blanc (Orange) $20

26. 2011 Pepper Tree Wines Coquun Reserve Shiraz (Hunter Valley) $55

27. 2011 Pepper Tree Wines Venus Block Reserve Chardonnay (Orange) $35

28. 2007 Pokolbin Estate Riesling (Hunter Valley) $25

29. 2011 Skimstone Barbera (Mudgee) $28

30. 2011 Tallavera Grove Shiraz (Hunter Valley) $25

31. 2009 Tertini Wines Reserve Pinot Noir (Southern Highlands) $58

32. 2010 Tertini Wines Pinot Noir (Southern Highlands) $53

33. 2012 Thomas Wines “The O.C.” Semillon (Hunter Valley) $22

34. 2012 Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon (Hunter Valley) $28

35. 2012 Toppers Mountain Gewurztraminer (New England) $30

36. 2012 Tulloch Wines Vineyard Selection Semillon (Hunter Valley) $18

37. 2006 Tyrrell’s Vineyards HVD Semillon (Hunter Valley) $35

38. 2010 Tyrrell’s Vineyards Vat 8 Shiraz (Hunter Valley) $50

39. 2011 Tyrrell’s Vineyards Vat 8 Shiraz (Hunter Valley) $50

40. 2010 Westend Estate “3 Bridges” Durif (Riverina) $25

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz 2010

Torzi Matthews Frost Dodger Shiraz 2010 (Eden Valley, SA)
14.5%, Screwcap, $30
Source: Sample

In Graham land, Monday night is family night. It's the one night when everyone congregates at my parent's house to catch up over dinner/raid the icecream stash. The atmosphere is casual, the emphasis on conversation - and catching up on the latest IQ recorded episodes of Deadliest Catch (that last bit I'm not quite down with yet. How they could make 12 seasons about crabbing still remains a point of intrigue. I did watch a bit tonight though).

My contribution to the Monday night program is, naturally, wine related, with 4-6 bottles from the sample mountain typically accompanying me. Curiously, what is most interesting about Monday nights is how little wine is really drunk, largely as everyone seems to enjoy tasting more than drinking. We're all born wine critics obviously...

Of all the Monday night wines opened this year though, of all the Semillon and Riesling and Cabernet and rosé, I'd have to say that this Shiraz is easily the best. Even my Mum, who rarely likes full bodied Shiraz, was wooed by its richness, its weight, its sense of completeness (actually, she just really liked the creamy texture and the sweet fruit and the freshness. I liked the other things).

So why does it work? A combination of factors no doubt, starting at the vineyard level. Think biological farming (Clayton's organics), low yields, minimal irrigation, the works. Or at least that's what it says on the wonderfully comprehensive wine description page on the Torzi Matthews website (why don't more wineries go into such detail? Quality, minimalist viticulture and clever winemaking should be celebrated with gusto).

Where the production of this wine steps to the left is after the grapes have been picked. That's where the appasimento action comes in you see, those dark black/purple coloured Shiraz berries air dried on racks for an undisclosed period, in proper Amarone style, in a bid to both concentrate the grape sugars but also to concentrate the surface area (and increase tannins). Given how fresh and juicy this is, I'd have to say that the grapes weren't dried for that long, or at least the drying was very carefully managed, particularly given the complete lack of volatility evident (given that when grapes shrivel they split, and when they split they rot and then fruit flies come... and all of it leads to VA).

Personally, I think that such crafty grape drying is a large reason why I love this wine, that classic black and blue berried Eden Valley Shiraz fruit flavour ratcheted up several notches on the intensity scale, everything looking richer, more caramelised more.. more. Yet never dehydrated. There is treacle, licorice, Biltong, coal, the works. Yet still there is fruit, lots of juicy dark fruit. The palate too carries that extra layer of bitterness ala classic Amarone, the milk chocolate oak (this spent 24 months in 40% new French hogsheads) sweetening up the middle even further and adding textural cream along the way, the palate finishing thick, puckeringly tannic and wonderfully, surprisingly fresh.

Normally I'm a cynical man and a cynical taster, but I kept coming back to this. I couldn't not like it. I couldn't not like the wonderful energy and concentration of the style. I put it down, I picked it back up again. Superb, 'essence of black grapes' juice.

Drink: 2012-2022+
Score: 18.7/20 95/100
Would I buy it? Yes.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The best(s) Riesling in years: Best's Riesling 2012

Best's Riesling
Best's Great Western Riesling 2012 (Great Western, Grampians, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

According to Justin Purser, the new Best's winemaker, this 2012 wine is 'slightly riper than expected'. Personally I think this looks all the better for it too, that extra ripeness working wonders for the length and power. Interestingly I'm not alone on preferring slightly riper, drier Best's Rieslings either - former Best's winemaker Simon Clayfield confided a year or so ago that he felt the same.

Wonderfully full nose on this - it looks muscular, powerful and weighty, even a little Grosset-esque in that latent power. There is a real citrussy tang to the palate which is longer, warmer and perhaps a little more forward than it has been in some time. That mid palate is seriously firm and rich, the acidity less soft and more burly. I like this very much, it drinks well now and I think has the power to drink well later too.

Drink: 2012-2022
Score: 18/20 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Tim Smith Eden Valley Riesling 2012

Tim Smith Eden Valley Riesling 2012 (Eden Valley, SA)
11.5%, Screwcap, $25
Source: Sample

If this was any more backwards it would be grapes. I kept that in mind when tasting, yet still it was a hard slog to coax out the goodies.

A very withdrawn sort of wine this one with some nice bath salts, grapefruit and green melon florals, over a very lean, grapefruit dominated palate. It is a very pretty sort of wine, but feels only just ripe and quite short. This will get much better with bottle age, no doubt, but for now just looks underpowered. Pleasant though.

Drink: 2013+
Score: 16.8/20 89/100+
Would I buy it? No.

Seppeltsfield Eden Valley Riesling 2011

Seppeltsfield Eden Valley Riesling 2011 (Eden Valley, SA)
12%, Screwcap, $19

Source: Sample

Sourced from the 'Garden of Eden' vineyard and looks to have been picked quite early. Picked up the trophy for Best Riesling at the 2011 Barossa Wine Show and the judges look to have picked it well.

Oh and did I mention how much I love the Seppeltsfield labels? I'm going to keep saying that as I think they're great. This also comes in the new Eden Valley proprietary bottle too (which I also like). Plus it is well priced. Win win win.

Direct, limey and slatey dry Eden Riesling in a particularly fresh and primal form considering the vintage. Very clean and fresh. Quite juicy palate and very crystalline acidity, with a bit of that aspirin like lemon talc edges. That bristling acidity and juicy fruit makes for a genuinely delicious lean Eden Valley Riesling that is both dry and fruit sweet. No sign of the excessive forwardness or bot that marred so many 11 Eden Rieslings either.

Drink: 2012-2020
Score: 18.3/20 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

10 x 20 years tasting - a plethora of Victorian goodies

10 x 20 years tasting - a plethora of Victorian goodies

'Ten Victorian vineyards - established, owned and run by ten passionate families.

Ten families that have invested in an individual site for growing grapes, building a winery and making their own wines for twenty years or more.

Ten producers with a lifelong obsession with discovering the full potential of their vineyard, who strive to produce world class wines with the grapes from their vines.'

Producers who are strong minded, opinionated and fascinating individuals, focused on the art and science of producing wine of place and personality - and most importantly a delicious drink!

Put these ten producers in one room, pouring a selection of their best wines - something new and something older - and that's a tasting not to be missed!

Sounds good doesn't it? Especially when those producers include the likes of Bannockburn, Bass Phillip, Bindi, Craiglee, Crawford River, Dalwhinnie, Jasper Hill, Moorooduc Estate, Tarrawarra Estate and Yeringberg.

What surprised me was how many people missed the 'trade' session of this tasting. Sure, the clever ones made an appearance, but, by-and-large, the room was empty. Obviously they missed out big time, particularly given just how many 2010 vintage wines were on show, a vintage that was very very kind to many Victorian vineyards. That malaise is worrying though, a reflection of the occasional lack of respect given to such celebrated wineries. The public session, conversely, was well attended...

Personally, I just targeted a few producers/wines that I don't get to normally see and found, unsurprisingly, much glory. I wish I had hours more to spend chatting to the absolutely genuine Pat Carmody from Craiglee or the wonderfully mad Phillip Jones of Bass Phillip. Heck, the combined wines and personality in that room was worth days of closer attention.

Here is just a few of the goodies tasted.The wines were tasted at speed and the notes are stunted. I hope you get the gist...

Bass Phillip

I love Bass Phillip. The wines can be murky, mercurial and unstable. When they're good, however, they are amongst the best Pinots in the country, bar none. This lineup only supports that notion. Someone buy me all the 2010 Pinots please.

Bass Phillip Estate Chardonnay 2010 (Gippsland, Vic)
Biscuity oak on the nose, the palate is rich but has noticeably briny acidity, the style backward, firm and very serious. That oak is just a little resinous but the style is rather charismatic. 17.7/20 92/100

Bass Phillip Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (Gippsland, Vic)
Tomato leaf and raspberry, classic Pinot aromatics yet not sweet. Very stem driven but has the fruit to match. So very classic! I love this style. Yes. 18.5/20 94/100

Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir 2010 (Gippsland, Vic)
More reticent than the Estate Pinot but also with more structural drive. Perfection of line through the back. Exceptional length and a finish that lasts for minutes. There is a real stalky red fruit resonance to this that is pure warm year, cool climate Pinot. Wow. 19/20 96/100

Bass Phillip Premium Pinot Noir 2009 (Gippsland, Vic)
Decidedly more open and generous than the 2010, this is less classy but still very impressive. Richer red fruit, if just a fraction warmer and harder than the '10. Hard act to follow indeed for this is a glorious mid weight Vic Pinot in the classic mould. 18.5/20 94/100


The dry stretch over and Craiglee is back on form, this 2010 Shiraz showing nothing of the confection that has plagued recent Craiglee Shiraz releases. That famous spice is still missing though (or not obvious at this stage).

Craiglee Shiraz 2010 (Sunbury, Vic)
Super glossy this vintage. Almost candied purple plum fruit even. Plush and round with proper acidity too. I like that glossy fruit, but just waiting for the structural penny to drop. Hold. 17.5/20 91/100+

Crawford River

The next generation of Thomon family members have begun to influence the direction of Crawford River and it appears to be for the better - not to say that wines were broken to begin with, but it is certainly welcome to see new labels and even a welcome dip into social media. That Young Vines Riesling deserves a special mention (the vines are 11 years old now which no doubt helps) as an example of the new good bits.

Crawford River Young Vines Riesling 2011 (Henty, Vic)
Floral, grapefruit and super tight nose with just a little honey escaping. Very pretty palate is delicate, driven by high acid but not unripe. Such purity and delicacy! Lovely cool clime Riesling. 18/20 93/100

Crawford River Riesling 2005 (Henty, Vic)
Just a flick of turpentine - it's not pervasive. Underneath it's delicate and toasty, not the obvious sort of toast found in Clare Riesling, but somehow lighter and fresher. Underneath that is grapefruit - lots of it. The glory here is that age-old tension between bottle age weight and super firm acidity. I like it so much, even if it's very much a wine in motion. 18.5/20 94/100

Crawford River Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Henty, Vic)
Rich and quite powerful, love that thick, cedary, dark berry fruit character. So vibrant and youthful, if a fraction bulky and minty. Bordeaux meets southern Victoria. 17.8/20 92/100


Even during the Pyrenees drought vintages (2007-2009) Dalwhinnie's wines have retained a sense of vitality. Having been there I can attest to the detail of the viticulture - when I visited the cover crops here looked healthier, the vines more alive than in many other vineyards around the area. These 2010 reds don't dissapoint either.

Dalwhinnie Shiraz 2010 (Pyrenees, Vic)
Slightly dominant, slick oak but can't mask the fruit underneath. I love the white pepper, the licorice, the extract and power. Luscious and briary yet savoury. Mid weight but powerful. Excellent 18.6/20 94/100

Dalwhinnie Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Pyrenees, Vic)
Very dry, almost severe. Perhaps too hard? Lean and classically long, minty palate. Looks precise and firm, a cool and backward wine. Will reward the patient. I like how unshowy this is, even if it needs the patience. 18/20 93/100

Jasper Hill

To be completely honest I haven't loved the recent Jasper Hill releases. The best wines from this estate are brilliant, sure, however the past few vintages (Heathcote hasn't had an easy viticultural ride of late) have often looked too candied and alcoholic to float my boat. The 2009 wines are certainly a step in the more balanced direction, even if the second label-esque 2011 red blend looked thin and light (though I oddly didn't record a note).

This older wine reiterated just how good the 'good' can be.

Jasper Hill Emily's Paddock Shiraz blend 2002 (Heathcote, Vic)
Dry, drying and tannin driven. I don't ever remember Emily's being so structured. Regardless this was rich and firm, ripe and long, all choc mint and a real sense of vitality. Straight out of left field and wonderfully drinkable because of it. Superb. 18.3/93

Moorooduc Estate

Only one wine tried in this Moorooduc range and obviously a winner. Historically the Moorooduc Chardonnays have often impressed more than the Pinot Noir (to my palate) so this is a massive win from what is obviously a glorious vintage in much of Victoria.

Moorooduc Estate 'The Moorooduc' Pinot Noir 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Vic)
A veritable classic Mornington Pinot, a quite pretty wine with gentle pippy red fruit and just a hint of pan juices. The palate has juicy redcurrant fruit and classic, soft-yet-powerful acidity. A fleshy and open wine but with both structure and delicacy. Just a beautiful, generous and not sweet Pinot of proper proportions. Bloody good. 18.7/20 95/100

Tarrawarra Estate

Consistency. That's what Tarrawarra has been notably good at, the wines consistently tasty and varietal. I'd still like to see more wildness though, the wines always well built, if missing a dash of x-factor.

Tarrawarra Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Quite a masculine Pinot this one, oak poking through on the nose, the palate smooth, full and powerful is a fraction brawny and drying. A Shiraz drinkers Pinot perhaps with its best days ahead of it. 17.5/20 91/100+


Buy. That is the very simple message for these Yeringberg wines, all of which show grace, delicacy. vibrancy and a wonderful soft touch.. The labelling is simple, the wines effortless... I've always enjoyed the Yeringberg wines and these releases are amongst the very best. I didn't write notes about the 2011 white blend but even it looked good for the season. Did I mention buy?

Yeringberg Pinot Noir 2010 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
Smoky and duck friendly, it is quite a big wine with a slightly hammy edge, carrying all the power and weight of the warm season, yet served in a style that is quite open and unforced. Lovely. 18/20 93/100

Yeringberg Shiraz 210 (Yarra Valley, Vic)
This Pinot-esque style is my favourite form of Yarra Shiraz. Fragrant, white pepper and cranberry sort of wine with a measured palate that couples red fruit with acidity and dry, delicate tannins. Mid weight and fine, without ever looking bony. Great cool clime Shiraz. 18.5/20 94/100

Yeringberg Yeringberg 2010
Quite firm and stocky, yet also retaining that essential black leafiness too. I miss seeing leafiness in so many Cabernets and blends, the mere suggestion of herbs a no-no in the modern idiom. Beyond the herbaceous hint, this is all vibrant redcurrant fruit and in that fragrant right bank Bordeaux spicy form that makes me think there is a fair bit of Cab Franc in the blend (just 11% apparently). A beautiful, lively and perfumed, finely tannic red of fluidity and balance that is perfectly ripe at 13% alcohol. 18.8/20 95/100

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Evans & Tate Redbrook Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Evans & Tate Redbrook Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Margaret River, WA)
14%, Screwcap, $35

Source: Sample

It's good to see that, under the stewardship of McWilliams, E & T is finally producing the sort of wines that it should be - like this thoroughly rich and modern Margaret River Cabernet, a wine that comes adorned with multiple show medals and is bound to garner several more, such is the rich, plush and varietal show-friendly style.

Dusty, Margaret-River-or-bust nose with some very clever, polished red berry fruit and cappuccino froth oak. There is even a hint of vine leaf in there for good measure. Very correct noughties wine indeed. The oak sweetened, purple fruit drenched palate has blocky, earthy tannins and just a hint of craisins around the edges, that suggestion of dried blackberry fruity a dead giveaway for the vintage, the wine finishing with slightly parched tannins.

Strictly speaking its a bit (fruit) sweet and showy for me, but I won't begrudge just how easily attractive, genuinely rich, full flavoured and utterly polished this red is.

Drink: 2012-2020
Score: 17.7/20 92/100
Would I buy it? No, but I can almost guarantee that most people I give it to will enjoy the style immensely.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Orlando St Hugo 1998

Orlando St Hugo 1998 (Coonawarra, SA)
13%, Cork

Source: Dinner guest

I must admit to not being the biggest fan of St Hugo, preferring the charms of Wynns Black Label over it. That's largely because it has always seemed a little four square, hard-edged and minty than I really want. Still, this '98 is incredibly youthful if nothing else. Still nothing sexy about it though.

Big, minty and powerful beast, driven by eucalyptus and big firm black fruit. Looks rather big and bold. Did I say minty? Big, drying palate is starting to evolve but otherwise its still backward as hell. 

Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 16.9/20 89/100+
Would I buy it? No. The 96 though I did rather like.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Faisan Estate Range

Faisan Estate Range

Faisan Estate is a small (4.5ha in total) vineyard planted at 780m on the slopes of Mount Canabolas, Orange, the vines originally planted by Col Walker in 1992 with son Michael now running the show.

What I like about these wines is that sense of bony delicacy - they're light, crisp, high acid wines, built sans excessive fruit sweetness and structurally assured. Conversely, that acidity can look more than a little hard at times, the mintiness also palpable, all pointing to what looks to be a really quite marginal site and divisive wines. I like the sense of genuine expression regardless.

Faisan Estate Chardonnay 2010 (Orange, NSW)
12.5%, Screwcap, $30

Lovely aromatics - it smells oh-so-fresh and pure, with lavender and jasmine, alongside richer, butterscotch yeast and sawdust oak characters. The yeast and oak is sitting on top of the fruit at present, though there is fruit purity and power. Perhaps the only challenge is just how jagged the acidity is, all lemon juice and cutting edges.

Can this integrate? I hope so, for there is serious promise underneath.

Drink: 2013
Score: 16.8/20 89/100+
Would I buy some? No. If it integrates? Maybe.

Faisan Estate Pinot Noir 2010 (Orange, NSW)
13%, Screwcap, $35

Why does Orange Pinot continue to underperform? More UV? It's hardly too warm. How can Chardonnay work so well here, whilst Pinot Noir struggles?

Proper cloudy coloured (all Pinot should be cloudy. That's the rules). Ripe, extractive nose has that obvious bacon bit character of much riper climes,  Red cherry fruit too, the style trying to be pretty but still a dry red underneath. Sappy and extractive palate lacks the flesh to drive it forward, the mid palate cut with mint and the tannins raw and unripe. Everything here points to both under and overripeness, making this ultimately the lesser wine of the trio.

Drink: 2012-2015
Score: 15.5/20 86/100
Would I but it? No.

Faisan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Orange, NSW)
14%, Diam, $55

Now we're getting serious. Fine boned, elegant Cabernet indeed. Back label reads - 'Built for the long haul, if you can resist'. 140 cases produced.

Lovely fragrant nose. Dusty cassis and cherry kernels, eucalypt and dusty books. Initially, a little minty but not unripe, it's fragrant and quite pretty actually, a Cab from a borderline climate, but fresh because of it. Nice vanilla icecream oak underneath. Palate again shows that 'just ripe' character, the style fresh and minty, acid driven yet still with some prime cassis fruit in there. Long, long tannins and quite an attractive drink.

A classic example of very caring winemaking in a marginal site, I keep coming back for those quality fine grained tannins in particular, even if it will always be a fraction minty and delicate wine.

Drink: 2014-2020+
Score: 17.5/20 91/100+
Would I buy it? No. If it was in the cellar I'd wait a few years and probably really enjoy it. Price is right up there regardless.