Showing posts with label 2003. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2003. Show all posts

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Piccadilly Hills Chardonnay 2003

Piccadilly Hills Chardonnay 2003 (Piccadilly Valley, Adelaide Hills, SA)
14.3%, $28

The PIccadilly Valley is, for my money at least, one of the best places in Australia to grow Chardonnay. It's the sort of place that feels special and winey and a valley where everything looks a little greener and more lively.

This Chardonnay is a wonderful anomaly too - a ripe wine, from a hot year, that is still in quite good shape. Did I mention how good the Piccadilly is for Chardonnay?

Sourced from the elevated north eastern corner of the Piccadilly Valley it saw partial MLF and lees stirring.

It certainly smells like an 11 year old Chardonnay with quite a deal of toasty development. Underneath the leesy, buttered melon palate doesn't lack for substance, though the alcohol is starting to wade noisily into the back palate.

Still great length signals that this would be a promising wine in its youth, though it's just a bit too broadly developed to be delicious now (though not over the hill just yet - indeed it's still got some life). Length gives this an extra point and surprising drinkability when all is said and done.

Source: Sample
Tasted: July 2014
Drink: 2014
Score: 16/20, 87/100
Would I drink it? No. But I can appreciate how good it is looking for its age and station.
Buy online: Piccadilly Hills website

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Long Rail Gully Riesling 2003

Long Rail Gully Riesling 2003 (Canberra)
12%, Screwcap
Source: Sample

In pretty good form, all things considered.

Yellow straw. Golden toasty nose is quite typical Riesling, the age obscuring the fruit a little but still pleasant. Palate is decayed a fraction, the acid getting sharper and the dusty edges beginning to take over.

Pleasant but just an older Riesling.

Drink: 2009-2015
Score: 15.5/20, 85/100
Would I buy it? No.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Jim Barry: Verticals of Florita, Armagh + McRae Wood

Jim Barry: Verticals of Florita, Armagh + McRae Wood

'We made our first (Armagh) when Sam was in my underpants'

That's Peter Barry, current Jim Barry Wines GM and Barry family patriarch, in typically blunt form. Think funny uncle telling bad jokes form, if you get what I mean.

Like his wines, Peter is an unashamedly open and approachable sort of character, very much in a pragmatic, assured, regional Australian mould. You can almost picture him in a wide brimmed hat (an Akubra if we 're typecasting), wandering through rows of Shiraz vines kicking dirt with his RM Williams.

Yet that old-school, wily farmer persona is not quite representative of the Jim Barry Wines in 2013. The business, you see, is changing, with Peter's young sons Tom and Sam now taking a larger role in the family business than ever, the framework of a clear succession plan clicking into place.

The Barry boys have followed an almost pre-ordained path to get there too, with Tom completing the same University of Adelaide Bachelor of Oenology degree that his father did in 1985 and his grandfather in 1922, with Tom spending the last few years working vintage at Jim Barry, also fitting in a season at Dr Loosen and some American sales experience.

Sam, two years younger, instead counts a Bachelor of Commerce degree on his resume, with his first European vintage coming up in Burgundy shortly. Unlike his brother, Sam's future is very much focused on the business, whilst Tom is more about making wine, their roles already (cleverly) symbiotic and sharing a  (clearly genetic) love of wine.

It's not just the family winery that the Barry brothers are focused on, with the clos Clare (little c on the clos, just to upset everyone) label their rather successful side project, pumping out excellent Clare Riesling, Shiraz and Grenache from a combination of Florita vineyard fruit (the clos Clare plot is a section of Florita) and local growers.

While it's probably a little too early to tell, I think you already can see the influence of this new Barry generation on the most recent Jim Barry releases too - the younger Rieslings tighter, the oak influence on the Shiraz less obvious, the fruit less alcoholic and ripe, All of which bodes very well for the future of this famous family winery.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to witness the evolution of the wines myself, looking at verticals of most of the premium Jim Barry wines, including the Florita Riesling, McRae Wood and Armagh Shiraz, with all three Barry men on hand (and Mum at home chiding them to tweet more).

As you can see by the notes below, it wasn't hard to appreciate such a lineup, with the Armagh, in particular, looking much better as an older wine than I expected, particularly considering that it has often been a 15% alcohol, super rich wines.

I have no qualms then, about the high scores given out here. So much Clare Valley deliciousness and so much consistency...

The following notes are largely unedited from the day (save for a grammar touch-up) with extra notes in italics. The wines were tasted non-blind at a rapid pace but I think I got their measure.

Bracket 1 - 2013 Rieslings

Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2013
Sourced off a vineyard located at 480m above sea level, which is amongst the highest in the Clare.
Biting. Steely. Lime tang. Very linear. Quite backwards. Lovely lime juice freshness. Power. The shape here is much more severe than the other wines around it, which is quite surprising. Still lovely focus. 18/20 93/100+

Jim Barry Single Site Block 114 Riesling 2013
A new super-premium release sourced from a single plot of dry grown Riesling that has been bottled separately.
Very pretty. Really concentrated apple and lime juice. Perfect acidity. So fresh! A perfectly expressive, limey, essence-of-Clare style but also curranty and firm underneath. Explosion of lime flavours. Wonderful now. 18.8/20 95/100

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2013
So much more linear again. Neutral even. A chalky chewy concentration on the back palate. Definitely more chewy. Long, chalk to finish. A slightly different shaped acidity here - more grapefruit, less lime. Will look better than the 'single site' in years to come. 18.5/20 94/100+

Bracket 2 - Florita vertical

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2004
Petrol. Limey, custard tart juice. Very soft and I think quite advanced. Not ugly advanced but quite gentle and aged. Lime custard finish very appealing. Added acid to finish? Looks the very model of Riesling, if just a little hard. Still not quite in the prime of its life. 18/20 93/100

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2005
Immediately more ripe and full than the 04 but also a very different wine. Definitely less classic. Fuller colour. Less classic perhaps. Maybe a little too ripe to be brilliant? big wine. Ripe orange juice fruit. Firm finish but a little shorter. Still has many years to come and going over a development hump. 17.7/20 92/100+

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2008
Still carrying lime bath salt primary fruit. In a funny stage, the first richness of maturity over a very dry, neutral palate. Very biting acidity. Hold. This is a keeper. The extra limey drive through the finish marks this as a super wine. Yes. 18.5/20 94/100

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2009
Hints of tangerine. Steely. Super firm acidity. Chewy phenolics. Maybe a little flat. Lots of acidity - ball of lemon soda water acidity. I came back to this and liked it much more, but still a bit uncompromising. 17.7/20 92/100

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2010
Open. Expressive. Seems lovely and generous but maybe not quite classic. Warm year wine. Not my favourite bottle of this - it's ripe and flat and a bit dull with fatter edges. 17/20 90/100+

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2011
A wine of acidity. Slightly lumpy palate. Endless acidity. Hold! There is excellent length here, it just needs to fill out through the middle. All components, no form right now. 17.7/20 92/100+

Bracket 3 - Makings of PB

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 2002
Mint. Deep nose. Choc- mint licorice. Luscious, oaky, alcoholic palate. Just a hint of caramel around the edges. So much energy still! Unequivocally choc mint Clare. Very deep. Effortlessly luscious and super resolved. Long, generous hearted red. Do you need to separate the Shiraz and Cabernet? 18.6/20 95/100

Jim Barry Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Cedar. Maturing nicely. Very linear. Super smooth and resolved. Lovely, warm hearted style. Maybe a little tart. So much Cabernet expressiveness! Lovely tannins too. Just lovely. 18.5/20 94/100

Jim Barry Pb Shiraz Cabernet 2002
Never released. A blend of the above wines.
Cedar. Maybe a little oddly caramel? Mid weight, composed. Still quite backward. Lots of tannins too. I think this is the least evolved wine of the three and curiously doesn't work as well as either wine. Odd. 18.3/20 93/100+

Bracket 4 - The McRae Wood

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 1998
Others around me loved this wine a helluva lot more than I did.
Fully evolved. Treacly. Would have seen a heap of oak in its day. Cocoa powder oak. Has a bit of that old Australian wine plummy chocolate sameness. A fraction dried out. A good old red but I want more resolve perhaps to really impress. 17.5/20 91/100

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 1999
Olives. Brandy. A bit roasted and volatile. Just a bit burnt and figgy and lesser in this context. Lacks fruit. Flatter. Dud bottle. N/R

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 03
Effectively declassified Armagh as none made in 03. Looks it too.
Super sweet. Like a chocolate Mars Bar in its oak sweetness. Super smooth and lusciousness. Proper tannins too - carries its shape nicely. Still very youthful. I love the decadence of this. Too sweet? Lovely flesh and oak red fruit and chocolate sweetness. 18.2/20 93/100

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 2009
Very modern and flashy, and blackcurrant fruity juice. Finishes quite softly, even a little sweet.  Surprisingly fragrant and lightly pressed. Too berried? Very pretty. Much more acidity in this. Grows on you. 18/20 93/100+

Jim Barry The McRae Wood Shiraz 2010
Very sweet fruited. Lots of berries. Not residual sweet or confected though. Berries in abundance. Very young and juicy. An earlier drinker but not actually that light - the tannins are fine and long. A real sleeper wine that every sip looked more finessed and clever. Very smart. Needs much more time and a good decant to open it up. 18.5/20 94/100+

Bracket 5 - Armagh

'1 get 1 out of ten Armagh wrong' says Peter Barry. He believes that the reason why the older Armagh look so good is that 'we are Riesling winemakers who don't like oxidation', noting that 'Stephen Henschke doesn't like oxidation in his reds either'

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 1989
Fully resolved. Black tea. Sweet fruited. Condensed milk oak. Really sweet core of fruit. Gentle and attractive, if just a little raisined in its red fruit. Not complex but lovely. Really lovely. 18/20 93/100

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 1994
Choc mint and treacle. Leafy with a bit of slow cooked meat wildness. A slightly simple wine and finishes a little gruff. Not profound but a good enough drink. Starting to fall away. Attenuated finish. Lesser in this context. 17.5/20 91/100

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 1999
Intensely flavoured. Inky and massive. Tiny dark berries. Hot finish. So huge and liqueured licorice play-doh. Maybe a bit bourbon hot but impressive concentration. Super hero weight if a little boozy. Will live for another ten years yet. So impressive in its heroic, massively oaky, massively rich flavours, without losing tannic form. Quite brilliant. 18.6/20 95/100

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 2006
I've liked previous bottles of this wine much more.
Grilled nuts. Even warmer and brandied. 16% alcohol?? Too warm. Has spirity, almost fortified edge. Too hot? Oak is really dominant. The core underneath looks perfect but the alcohol and oak are harder than I'd want. Hmm. 17.7/20 92/100

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 2009
Butter menthol oak and volatiles. Looks rather more contained and so much less oaky this vintage. Great length. Very pretty but maybe a bit blanched and mono dimensional. Still rather more restrained than the 06 before it, if a little reductive. Maybe I'd like it less sweet fruited and more structured. But a mere pup. Give it time and this should be amongst the best Armagh. Utterly delicious. 18.5/20 94/100

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 10
'A bit fresher' according to Sam Barry 'We think this is a perfect Armagh'. The first ever Armagh bottled only in screwcap.
Impressive. Shows its oak. But the under carriage is excellent. A restrained Armagh! Amazing. Certainly Grange level fruit quality without the Penfolds brand added tannins. Sneaky length. Very impressive, achingly young but near perfect in its huge richness and cosseting fruit. Bloody lovely.  A wow wine.19/20 96/100

Bracket 6 - Odds and ends

Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 1999
A curio, brought out largely for trade events and not sold publically.
Evolved. Pizza shapes and tasty cheese. Lemon. Palate is fully round but a little decrepit. Falls away. Nice mid palate but not the penetration. 16.5/20 88/100

Jim Barry Florita Riesling 2012
Has that bright, unresolved, fruit sugar juiciness nose of so many 2012 Riesling. Lime tang palate with so much energy of acidity and tang. Wonderful wine really. Will make lovely old bones, if not quite a classic wine as its a little full. Reminds me of the 05 actually. 18/20 93/100+

Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2012
I like this. Rather more generous lime lemon fruit and fragrance. Obvious perhaps but feels more classic Clare Valley in style and with that unmistakable, lime juicy Clare edge. Just a perfectly executed Riesling really. 18.5/20 94/100

Jim Barry Benbournie Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Beautiful. Just a lovely sweet chocolate and berry Clare deliciousness. Mint, fine flaky tannins. Maybe a little boozy? Very seductive though. Not as pretty a bottle as the 02 Benbournie but more dry and classic too. Love the hints of cedar and raspberry that make this very attractive. Clare Cabernet done very very good. 18.5/20 94/100

Jim Barry First XI Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Sourced from the Jim Barry Coonawarra vineyard
Lightly volatile, rather minty and a bit severe. Hint of raisin on the finish. Lots of Cabernet punch but just a little skinny. Needs to fill out more but has potential. Certainly carries its form but needs a little more composure to really impress. 17/20 90/100

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 2008
Very much a product of the vintage. Swathed in sweet fruit. Lots of ultra generous fruit in that sugar plum 08 style. Decadent but mono tone in its purple fruit. So much concentration. But not classic. 18/20 93/100

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 1992
We seemed to get the only decent bottle of 92 floating around at the tasting. A much underrated vintage for South Australian Shiraz.
Beautiful. Like a chocolate berry milkshake. Sweetened and juicy and fully complete. Caramel and fully resolved. Choc moccha muscat. Lovely. Just like liquid wine love. 18.5/20 94/100

Jim Barry Armagh Shiraz 1990
Smoky and fully resolved. Looks big and alcoholic. A little too boozy for me, the fruit can't quite keep up, looking more good old red than great old Armagh. 16.8/20 89/100

Wendouree Cabernet Malbec 1998
A ring-in brought from the Barry family cellars. What a ring in it was too.
Moody, reserved, utterly Clare in its full minty cedar. Lovely uncompromised style, if not quite generous. Still quite perfect in its balance of power and structure. Nothing like it still around in Australia. I loved it. 18.6/20 95/100

Monday, 22 October 2012

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+

Monday, 8 August 2011

A mini Hunter Shiraz vertical

Old Maurice would be proud...
A mini Hunter Shiraz vertical

I'm a little tardy in writing up these notes, but the following Hunter Shiraz vertical was held in Sydney a few months back. As you can see it threw up more than a few gooduns', though my notes are pretty rough and hardly definitive.

Oh and I'll also accept that as an unabashed Hunter fan my points for wines like these are naturally higher, purely because it's a style I enjoy drinking (and Hunter wines are thus heavily represented in my cellar) and think several of these wines represent great examples of the genre.

Tell me if I do sound biased though. Actually, I probably am biased, but I figure that if you enjoy the style like I do you might appreciate the context. Thoughts?

Mcwilliams Mt Pleasant Maurice O'Shea Shiraz 1996 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Pepper and meat, ballsy rich earthen red. Fully mature and evolved with hung game meatiness but no stink. Indeed it's pretty polished all things considered. Long and tasty, medium bodied Shiraz with that classic, rich-but-not sweet, red earth and leather Hunter Shiraz style. Fine tannins to finish. Steakworthy and deliciously drinkable. Great stuff. 18.3/93

De Iuliis Show Reserve Shiraz 1997 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Lightly caramelised, resolved and soft nose. It's a bit washed out actually, looking a little mono-dimensional after the O'Shea. Light, soft and rounded palate is a little subdued and just hanging together, but in a kinda sexy old Hunter way. Fair effort. 16.5/88

Mcguigan Personal Reserve Shiraz Shiraz 1998 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Lots of oak richness on this one. It smells of chocolate and vanilla and coconut, a little volatile too. Underneath all that it's warm and rich with plenty of power (if plenty of oak too). A better wine perhaps than the De Iuliis but not necessarily a better drink. 17/90

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Shiraz 1999 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Very dense with some classic animale Hunter stink. Leather and spice. Firm, dense and very serious nose. Rather drying and brambly palate with excellent powdery tannins. So very powerful and classic, with it's best years ahead of it. Delicious really. 18/93+

Tower Shiraz 2000 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Volatile and slippery. Hot, treacly edged palate is tarry and dense and full of flavour if just a bit too forward and obvious. Ok. 16.5/88 

Keith Tulloch 'Kester' Shiraz 2002 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Stinky, bretty nose over red dirt and spice fruit. Lots of bretty stink actually. Yet it's not without charm, that red dirt thing carries through the medium bodied palate to just give it a rustic feel. Divisive stuff form a hard year. 16/87 

Scarborough Shiraz 2003 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Right in the zone this is. Roast lamb, roast onions and red dirt on the nose. Really quite settled and meaty and resolved yet powerful. Sweet and generous, open knit palate with a mid palate kick and drying tannins to finish. Really rather drinkable. 17.5/91

Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2004 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

Lovely gear. Didn't expect this to be as good as it was. Dense, tapenade nose looks very powerful and coiled, with plenty of polish. That initial brashnes of youth has integrated in nicely. Licoricey mid weight palate looks both concentrated and soft, all at once. Sneaky good. Lovely stuff. 18.3/93

Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

Supercharged, backward and firm style, looked very young and powerful and utterly classic. It's a quintessentially modern wine, with the French oak sweetness a testament to that. But no hiding the very serious layers of dense, dusty black fruit. Yes. Double yes. Hunter fans buy it. 18.7/95 

Tulloch Private Bin Shiraz 2006 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Hunter Burgundy? No hiding the inspiration. Old school earth, leather and red fruit. Laidback, unforced, low alcohol style just primed for a long life in the cellar. Ageless even. Maybe a little too light for some? Cellarific. 18.3/93+

Tyrrell's Vat 9 Shiraz 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Still so very primary! All fruit still at present, with gummy berry red fruit. Generous and full and almost pretty. Soft and long palate is deceptively light and juicy. Achingly young though. Leave it in the cellar. 18/93+

Monday, 20 June 2011

Hunter Valley Tweetup

Hunter Valley Tweetup
Brilliant old Hunter curio

I'm in a house-keeping mood this week, with a little sunshine and a free night or too making for some serious productivity. Or at least that's the intention (the week is but young).

As part of said housekeeping activities, I'm attempting to make a dent in the small mountain of tasting notes that sit here next to my computer. I figure the best place to start this mission is the scrawl covered, somewhat itinerant pieces of paper that float around the desk peripherals, each one of them containing all sorts of interesting tidbits that are just waiting, patiently, to be transcribed from (poorly) handwritten musings into something more legible (online).

The following scribblings then come from a tasting held in conjunction with the Rick Bakas Hunter Tweetup, a part of the WCA Rick Bakas Tour-a-palooza that recently lapped Australia. This Hunter tweetup was held in the old dirt-floored Tyrrell's winery and attracted no shortage of renowned local vignerons and wine people, all brandishing some very fine Hunter vino indeed. Good times.

A few of the notable highlights:

Thomas Wines 'Braemore' Semillon 2011 'deconstruction'
Now here is a side of Hunter Semillon that you don't usually see. Andrew 'Thommo' Thomas split up his 2011 Braemore Semillon into three different samples, given the names of 'Spine, Heart and Tail', with each corresponding to different components. The 'Spine' is thus some of the earlier picked, more bracing acid driven juice, the 'Heart' is essentially one of the juiciest and ripest components, with the 'Tail' including some pressings.

A beguiling exercise in the makeup of a Hunter Semillon this, I found myself initially drawn to the drive of the Spine. The Heart followed this with a slice of seductive fruit - apparently the Heart makes up a fair proportion of the blend, so this was probably to be expected - and it certainly looked showy compared to the other two components. Finally, the gritty, phenolic edge of the tail offering a slightly different attraction again, a down and dirty hit of phenolic power. Add all of these components, blend judiciously, and you can see just how complete (and complex) the final wine will be. Seriously fine Semillon to watch out for.

Thomas Wines Braemore 2011 deconstructed
Tyrrell's HVD Semillon 1995 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
From the Tyrrell's Museum, the bottle itself was absolutely covered in trophies and bling. In fact Chris Tyrrell believes this to be one of the finest wines that his family has ever made. I'd be inclined to agree.

Lightly toasty, honeycomb edged toast nose is rich but still citrussy. The palate is really rich and full, honeyed and rounded through the middle, though still looking very fresh, with some real honeycomb textural viscosity. Still quite buzzy and very dry through the finish too. Excellent, complex, wonderous wine. That honeycomb-meets-citrus flavoursome length is of endless attraction (for me at least). Did I mention the exceptional length?

A beautiful 'full' styled Hunter Semillon. Worthy. 18.9/96

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon 2003 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

After the HVD this looks very ripe and heavy, with a very dense and heady nose that is really rather ripe and forward, and really quite typical for the (warm, dry) year. The lemon edged palate is very rich, maybe even a tad roasted, sitting with a big wallop of ripe, almost marmalade edged fruit. It's generous though and with gritty acidity. Long too. Interesting booze, though it still needs more delicacy. 17.7/92

Tyrrell's Pinot Hermitage 1980 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

Boom! Now here is an intriguing, O'Shea homage if ever there was one. It's really rather classic old Hunter Shiraz, but with a wild (Pinot) edge. Think treacle, bacon bits, chocolate and stink. It's actually really meaty and stinky in a roast-lamb-rolled-in-red-dirt-and-cocoa-powder style, but still quite fresh, and with no suggestion of anything untoward. It's just wonderfully meaty and flowing, finishing off gritty and earthen and interesting, with a happily long and appreciably tannic tail.

A lovely medium bodied drink, this is an easy 96 points on the curio scale, but more like 18.2/93 if pressed. Lovely ragu wine methinks.

Tyrrell's O.W. Hermitage 1983 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
After the Pinot Hermitage this actually looked rather caramelised and sweet, with an almost Violet Crumble like, oak artifice edged sweetness. The palate in particular is really rich and quite sweet, if still earthen and dry (if a bit warm) and Hunterish.

From a more general sense this is probably a little more easygoing than the wine above, but doesn't quite have the same intrigue or detail. Still plenty of pleasure though. 17.8/92 

Mcwilliams Rosehill Shiraz 1991 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Speaking of a little too much richness, this looked again like a big and (over) ripe style, carrying no shortage of oak sweetness to boot. Still, the flavours are all attractively red dirt and chocolatey in a classic regional form, even if everything looked a fraction warm and roasted against the wines above. 17/90

Tyrrell's Vat 9 Shiraz 1996 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
The biggest question mark here was whether this was bretty or just regional. I believe it's just a bit wild, with leather, bacon bits and slightly sweaty red fruit, over a rich and full palate. According to Andrew 'Spinner' Spinaze there is a little small American oak in there too and some extra oak richness because of it? Regardless, if you can get past that somewhat divisive nose there be much earthen pleasure to be had. 17.8/92

The current crop

I've tried some of these wines separately, but to have them lined up next to each other was certainly pleasurable. I'm an unabashed fan of the medium bodied, juicy style these wines espouse, as you can tell by the scores, but it's hard to look past the quality of the delicious 09 Shiraz in particular.

Tulloch Private Bin Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
I love the vibrancy here. It's so unforced and pretty, though not without body. A proper Hunter Burgundy if ever there was one.

Vibrant red berry nose. Really bright and juicy. Slight vanillan oak overtones. Slightly sour, elegant and dry, tannic palate. Long and very much in the zone. Perfect Hunter Shiraz. Almost swallowed this one. Yum. 18.3/93+

Lots of Hunter goodness here
Tyrrells Old Patch Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Typically my favourite of the Tyrrells single vineyard wines, this again fits the Hunter Burgundy mode, though there is a real purple berry fruit character in this wine that I rarely see in other Hunter Shiraz (and I'm really rather drawn to it).

Awesome colour. Juicy purple fruit nose. Really rich and juicy palate. All berry fruits. Hubba Bubba even. More tannins than the Vat 9. This looks in the zone! Grape Hubba Bubba with acidity and tannins. Dry, long and properly sculptured Shiraz in a classic style. Yes. 18.5/94+

Tyrrells 4 Acres Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
I've had this a few times now and I've found it to be a rather mercurial and quite ripe beast. I picked it as southern Italian in a blind lineup actually, which goes to show how ripe it can look.

It's a deeper wine than the Old Patch this one, but not quite as pretty. It's even more more purple berried though. Really overt and juicy as hell, if not quite as perfect as the Old Patch. I liked this, but it actually looked a little heady compared to the other wines? 18.2/93+

Mistletoe Reserve Shiraz 2006 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

Quite dense for the Hunter, with a real core of red to almost blueberry fruit. A dense style, real heart and fullness. Extra new oak? Still quite perfumed. I like the density here. Hard to fault, though maybe a little too flashy and full. Liked this a lot though. 18/93

Tempus Two Zenith Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)

The Zenith Semillons are typically quite forward, yet also classic styles that always pickup wine show bling. This looks rather backwards though, with a very citrussy and almost gooseberry edge. Lemony and just a bit sullen, with seriously zippy acidity. Lots of acid actually, with bits of straw. An interesting wine actually, if a few years off drinkability. Quite a success for the label. 18/93++

Monday, 16 May 2011

Premium Shiraz Night 2010

Premium Shiraz Night June 2010

63 Wyns Hermitage. Amazing.
As ever I'm playing catchup at the moment, discovering random forgotten tasting notes in equally random places. These notes have been sitting in paper form for some 10 months now, mainly due to my own slackness. Still, the calibre of the vino deserves recording (even 10 months later) for there was some seriously fine wines amongst them.

Without further ado...

(All of these were consumed over dinner, non blind (unless otherwise marked). Notes are as written on the night, with my little commentary at the end in brackets).

Flight One - Variety is the Spice of Life

Guigal Chateau d'Ampuis 2000 (Côte-Rôtie, Northern Rhone, France)
95% Syrah, 5% Viognier. 38 months in barrel.
Classic lifted perfume - a floral nose of Azalia's and pea and ham meatiness. Really bright though, bright, perfumed and juicy. Lovely meaty palate is surprisingly medium bodied, if looking rather warm through the finish. Did I mention the tannins? Excellent fine grained tannins, very silky and long.

Lovely wine, if a teeny bit hot through the finish. Cherry aromatics meets dark dusty fruit. Lovely, unforced wine. 18.7/95

(Lived up to it's reputation. Group favorite of the bracket to boot.)

Dalwhinnie South West Rocks 2005 (Pyrenees, Vic)
100% Shiraz.
Lovely peppermint chocolate aromas. Purple fruit, really dense and purple, with graphite, fleshy black fruit and lovely black jube/blackberry ripeness, sweet oak in the background. Light and airy through the finish, but still properly dry. Still much to give. Classy wine this, with so much elegant interest. Yes. 18.5/94

(Really surprised by this. That minerally, minty chocolatey goodness is distinctive and great)

Clonakilla Shiraz Viognier 2006 (Canberra District)
94% Shiraz, 6% Viognier. 3 day pre-ferment maceration. 20% whole bunches, extended warm open ferments. 12 months in 30% new French oak.
Very peachy - Viognier is really obvious at this stage, though the whole package looks very young. too young really. Palate starts dry and light, though gets thicker as it progresses. Warm finish. It's all very tight but pretty, though I also think it looks a little light and withdrawn through the tail. Ultimately just a tad too sweet perhaps? Should still be reasonably long lived. 17.8/92+

(Too young, too sweet. But no doubting the potential). 

Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz 2003 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
100% Shiraz. Famously dry vintage in the Hunter. 13.7% alc. pH 3.47
Earth. Lots of earth. Classically earthen nose that is very much in the secondary phase now. Very Hunter. Palate starts very rich and then gets meatier and drier as it travels along. Just a fraction short through the finish, capped off with drying tannins. So Hunter! 18/93

(So much to like for a Hunter wine fan here, even if it's a biggun').

Flight Two - Big, Bold, Beaut Aussies

Elderton Command Shiraz 2001 (Barossa Valley, SA)
100% Shiraz. Sourced from the Elderton Estate vineyard. 3 years in new American and French oak puncheons, transferred to older oak after the first year. 14% Alc.
Lots of chocolate, meat and Amex oak. Very Barossan, with lots of formic oak characters on the nose. 9yrs old but looking very youthful still. Sweet caramel entry, very soft palate is just faintly secondary, otherwise it looks just bottled. Very sweet, very oak, very rich, but appealing. Nice, if hardly earth shattering. 17.5/91

(Old school style here. Will live for many years yet. A sleeper methinks). 

Torbreck 'The Factor' Shiraz 2004 (Barossa Valley, SA)
100% Shiraz. Marananga, Koonunga Hill, Moppa, Gomersal. pH 3.7, 14.5% alc. 24 months in 30% new French oak.
Very closed, ultra dense, ultra concentrated nose. Crammed with oak and ultra ripe, almost petrochemical glycerol fruit. Really black fruit and so much oak. A real charry oak that rides all the way through the finish. That's a shame really for underneath all that oak is top line fruit, the odd whiff of bacon fat richness just hinting at it. Potential... 16.5/88+

(I think it will look better with a few years more in the bottle, but that oak will always be overt). 

Katnook Estate Prodigy Shiraz 2004 (Coonawarra, SA)
100% Shiraz. 27 months in roughly 50/50 French/American oak. 14.5% alc. pH 3.4. TA 6.4 g/l
Lots of sweet oak again. Flashy, sweet, super creamy vanilla oak over generous plummy fruit. That almost milky oak is very attractive but covers the fruit. Some good stuff underneath it. But geez it's oaky. 17/90

(Really interesting looking at this compared to the wine before. Both oak smashed, both have solid fruit at the core. This looked more varietal, but again would be smarter without the excesses of oak). 

Kilikanoon 'R' Reserve Shiraz 2006 (Barossa Valley, SA)
100% Shiraz. 30 months in small new French oak.
Very sweet and very much a case of 'see my oak'. Very polished though. That fruit underneath is high quality stuff. The whole wine is just a baby. A finely polished baby. It finishes a bit short and warm, but it's attractive. 17.5/91

(Sexy oak. But wine is more than oak. Again this would look better with less, though unquestionably attractive).

Flight Three - World Tour Wine Test

Served blind.

Craggy Range Le Sol 2007 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)

100% Syrah
Beautiful spread of ripe red fruit aromatics, even just a smidgen of eucalypyt, chocolate and gummy fruit. It's a little oaky but nice full weight to this style. Firmish finish. Needs years, but really rather appealing. 17.9/92

(A Le Sol that I really like is a rarity, but this looked very well balanced indeed).

Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde 2003 (Northern Rhone, France)

96% Syrah, 4% Viognier
Licorice and Asian spices on the nose. . Spicy and quite exotic even. Very nice. It's gummy and quite secondary, with all sorts of very ripe and plain exotic smells in there. Dry and mildly hammy, palate looks rather secondary. It's a good secondary, meaty Rhone with firm grainy tannins and good meaty grip, if a bit raw and dried. Lots to like here though.. 18/93

(I'd drink this for sure. Complex if a little dried out). 

E. J. Durand Cornas Empreintes 2005 (Cornas, Northern Rhone)
100% Syrah
Really secondary, hammy and sour. Deep, almost metallic palate with a real chewy end. Sour and hard.
Where's the love? It's not terrible, indeed you'd drink it, but more freshness wouldn't go astray. 16.5/88

(Why is Cornas so often a dissapointment? And why is it that Clape defies this?)

Chateau Reynella Cellar One 2005 (Mclaren Vale, SA)
100% Shiraz
Lots of chocolate, choc mint oak. Oak dominated, though it's not ugly oak. Did I mention sweet oak? There's plenty of fruit behind it but looks out of place in this context. Very sweet. But very Australian too. Chocolatey power. 17/90

(I think this has it's place. But geez it's a winemaker/oak salesman plaything when you think about it).

Flight Four - Charge of the 98 brigade

Coriole Lloyd Reserve 1998 (McLaren Vale, SA)
100% Shiraz
Lovely sweet vanilla and coffee nose. Mocha oak style. Very youthful. Sweet but coffee dry palate is still surprisingly tight. Oaky though. Long and warm and rich palate is rather delicious in the wash up. Falls away on the finish a smidgen. But still very attractive (in it's mould). 17.8/92

(Group favourite of the bracket) 

Brand's Laira Stentiford Reserve Old Vines 1998 (Coonawarra, SA)
100% Shiraz
Really evolved and even haunting secondary nose. Nutty beef stock. Nicely evolved. Black pepper and tea leaf. Unquestionably Coonawarra with some spicy brackishness on the back palate. Resolved, regional and tasty. 18.3/93

(Woah. Didn't expect to like this at all. Happy surprise!)

Wynns Michael 1998 (Coonawarra, SA)
100% Shiraz. 13.5% alc. TA 7.3g/L. pH 3.43
Eucalpyt! Lots of eucalypt along with large amounts of choccy toasty, dominant oak. Clumsy oak. Underneath it's just like a shell, sour and dry with poky acid. Awkward. 16/87+

(Way too oaky, But hey, it will live).

Meerea Park 'Alexander Munro' Cellar Release Shiraz 1998 (Hunter, NSW)
100% Shiraz
Lovely full Hunter Shiraz. Grainy tannins. Very dry. Chocolate and earth. Sour finish. Classic Hunter, full and proud. Love me! Time+. 18.2/93

(I'm biased - I brought this. A good bottle no doubt helps. The youthful/agelessness of the style is really amazing).

Flight Five - In Vino Antiquis Veritas

Henschke Mt Edelstone 1995 (Eden Valley, SA)
100% Shiraz
Corny stink to the nose and looking secondary. Plum and pea. Intriguing nose with plenty to it. Light to medium bodied palate still has lots of chocolate oak now turning into a smokiness. Meaty, long and briary, sinewy even. Plenty of that black licorice edged Eden valley fruit. Long, fully evolved and just plain lovely. Slow cooked meat. I like it. 18/93

(95 - the ordinary vintage for everyone bar Henschke. Lovely wine).

Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz 1999 (Barossa, SA)
100% Shiraz
Corked. The only corked bottle of the night.

Tardieu-Laurent Hermitage 1996 (Hermitage, Northern Rhone, France)
100% Syrah
Dirt and dog poo. Iron and meat. Stinky. Light to medium bodied. Stinky! Diversive stink. Carrion even. Underneath it's dusty and fair. But the nose is hard work.  14.5/81

Wynns Coonawarra Hermitage 1963 (Coonawarra, SA)

100% Shiraz
Chocolate, tobacco leaf, rum and raisin. Very evolved and meaty but still in good shape - tally ho! Olives, stalks and volatility. Quite sweet! Just a bit metallic through the back. Meaty. Sharp acid. Still going! Amazing. Priceless.

(I didn't rate this as it's too hard to give a score to a classic. Instead I'll say that it's great to marvel in how drinkable this wine still is. A little dried out and volatile but still impressively sweet. Still drinkable!)

Flight 6 Addendum

Teusner FG Shiraz 2006 (Barossa, SA)

100% Shiraz
Very thick, rich and decadent. Deep and fresh! Black as night. Coffee. Deepset. Very rich. Lots of serious Shiraz fruit here, integrated with serious oak. A little warm through the finish. Seriously top end style here, with so much power and glory. Wow! Very fine. I want! 18.6/95

(Like Barossa Shiraz? Get some of this. Amazing booze).

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Shiraz 2003

Meerea Park Alexander Munro Shiraz 2003 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
14.5%, Cork, $70
Source: Sample

This was opened up alongside the 05, 07 and 09 vintages, and for drinking right now it was difficult to put this down. Garth Eather (who runs Meerea Park alongside his brother winemaker Rhys) believes this to be the best vintage they've ever made. It certainly looked the goods in this capacity.

It's something of a polarising wine on the nose though, with roasted meat, mushrooms, bonox and truffles. It's a fully evolved, earthen, classically Hunter nose, in a very 'winey' form, but I can see how it could be a little too meaty for some.

The palate is surprisingly clean and juicy after that nose, looking quite youthful even, with rich, bitter chocolate meets beefy savoury flavours, with a silken texture and firm grained tannins. There is still some truffled wildness on that palate, but in a lovely meaty form. It's a big ball of earthen goodness, topped off with still grippy tannins. Lovely evolved red with years to go still. Win. 18.7/95

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The joy of Clape

The joy of Clape

It doesn't happen all that often - although I wish it did - but when it does, it serves as a reminder of exactly how mindblowing the finest wines can be. I'm talking of that moment when you first taste a really great wine. Not just a good wine, but a great wine. The sort of wine that you relive over and over again in your head (and mouth) ad infinitum and blab on about it's glory to anyone who'll listen.

Tonight, happily, I was lucky enough to try one of these wines. It was only a sample really, a sip or two, but it was enough to fall in love. Enough to have me still thinking about it hours later. Enough to have me trying to work out how to accurately describe it. Enough to have me questioning everything really.

That wine was the 2005 Clape Cornas, a Northern Rhone red of renowned, of high points, of serious reputation. And it was a wine that delivered. What makes it great is just how drinkable it is - as pointed out by the Australian importer, James Johnston of World Wine Estates. It's actually a quite uncomplicated wine in that vein, with no new oak, reasonably low alcohol and rather savoury flavours. What makes it great is just how perfect it is. Think roasted meat (but not roasted fruit), red fruit and serious, dense tannins. It's firm but not hard, soft but not light. It is, quite simply, the essence of what 'Syrah' is meant to be. And I loved it.

But the fun didn't stop there tonight. No. Tonight's selection also included the 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008, plus the interloper second label 2008 Clape Renaissance. It was a lineup of consistency, of power, of 'give me another glass please' glory.

The only problem really is that at circa $160 a bottle it's hardly cheap. Considering that I can buy 4 bottles for the price of a single bottle of Penfolds Grange however, it's ultimately not all that much money considering the quality on hand.

Time to give the credit card a beating I think....

The wines (apologies for the vagueness. These are recollections mainly):

Clape Cornas 2002
Cool year. A slightly rustic, herbal wine in this context, tannins are still forthright and powerful. Dusty, slightly stinky but lots of enjoyment here. Good rustic style. Still interesting. 17/90

Clape Cornas 2003
From the hardcore, roasting 2003 vintage, this looked big and slightly stewed, but no questioning the impact and firm tannins. Slightly desiccated on the finish. Ka-pow wine. Drying out but with lots of concentration. 17.5/91 

Clape Cornas 2005
(See above) 19/96

Clape Cornas 2006
It looks lighter, sweeter, softer, more feminine after the 2005, with lighter tannins and less power through the back end. A real red fruit style after the 05. Still with lots to hold onto here, this is nothing if not approachable. On its own I think I'd be frothing over this. 18/93+

Clape Cornas 2007
Ala 2005. It's got that same delicate balance of meaty ripe fruit, red fruit and cola. It's tighter and more restrained than the 05, but the hallmarks are there. Maybe not quite the length of the 05. Carries brilliant, long and delicious peppery mouthful of firm fruit. Ironstone edge to the back palate. Still no oak to be seen. Top shelf. 18.5/94+

Clape Cornas 'Renaissance' 2008
Set immediately lighter than the preceding wines.Still carries that granitic mineral edge, yet seems softer and the tannins are rather light in context. Silken tannins they are though. Needs more length for bigger marks. 17/90

Clape Cornas 2008
Take the Renaissance and add in more depth. More power. Still a cranberry edged wine without that minerally meaty core of limitless richness that the better vintages have. Almost GSM like in its freshness. A lesser wine in this lineup, but it's a beautiful Shiraz. Lovely wine. 17.8/92

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Movements from Wine Australia + some fine wines to match

Movements from Wine Australia + some fine wines to match

This week marked our first big WCA committee meeting for 2011 (WCA - Wine Communicators of Australia, the national committee of which I'm a part of) and in amongst the usual discussions came an interesting presentation by a representative of Australia's peak wine body, Wine Australia.

What made it interesting was just to hear about the changing focus of Wine Australia's marketing activities, particularly on the domestic front. Previously, the perception has always been that Wine Australia's focus has been on export markets, with the dollars spent on international marketing, promotion and information, often with minimal regard for what happens within Australia itself. Flash forward to 2011 however and domestic marketing seems important again, with the appointment of a newly created Domestic Marketing Manager position, backed by a board whom see Australian wine sales as of increased relevance.

Interesting times...

Once official duties were largely sorted, the wines thankfully came out, and the WCA cellar has some very handy wines in it indeed (most of which have been winners at previous Sydney Wine Shows).

Annie's Lane Coppertrail Riesling 2004 (Clare Valley, SA) 11%
Couldn't be any more Clare Valley-esque if it tried. More in the Watervale mould that is, all toasty richness and a plump middle, in an upfront and open style. There is quite a deal of toast through the finish too, which not everyone is going to like, but the length is top shelf. It's not going to get any better, but I rather liked this. 18/93

Tahbilk '1927 Vines' Marsanne 2003 (Goulburn Valley, Vic) 10.5%
If the Coppertrail is the affable and upfront blonde, then this is the slightly more austere - but ultimately sexier - brunette. Lemon, lemon juice, even a hint of crab (yep, crab). Wonderful line and length, briny acidity and real intensity. Heavy, lightly creamy finish. Put me in the mind of a Tyrrells Stevens Sem actually (good thing) but more lemony, and with similar ageless qualities. Lovely drink (I drained more than one glass very easily). 18.5/94 

Cape Mentelle Chardonnay 2007 (Margaret River, WA) 13%
A fraction too ripe? Which sounds shallow considering this is just 13% alcohol, but it just looks a little heady. Creamy, toasty, leesy nose in a rich vanillan style, followed up by a palate that is loaded with flavour (and plenty of spicy oak). I'm seeing good things in this wines future, it just needs some time to settle down. 17.5/91+

Shaw + Smith Chardonnay 2008 (Adelaide Hills, SA) 13.5%
Rough vintage in the Hills. Shocker even. But if ever there was a wine that could defy the vintage it's this one. It starts off with a figgy nose, in that nicely layered, essence-of-modern-Chardy style. Ripe, though well contained. Quite restrained on the palate too, all things considered, with enough white peach fruit to carry it off. Palate is ultimately big boned and just a bit broad, but no questioning the class. Defies the vintage. 17.4/91 

Home Hill Pinot Noir 2005 (Tasmania) 14%
Bedecked with bling. Bedazzled even. Suffice to say it's won a medal or three. I can see why too. It's just a big, no-guts-no-glory Pinot, which is a little surprising for Tassie. If anything I think it's a bit stewed, with a caramel, treacly, stressed fruit edge (though it still smells proper Pinot-ish) Ultimately a little over the top and show wine-esque to be really drinkable (but others quite enjoyed it). 16.5/88

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas Drinks: Dönnhoff, Ata Rangi, Raogna, Morris

Christmas Drinks: Dönnhoff, Ata Rangi, Roagna, Morris

Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2007 (Nahe, Germany) 8.5%
It's still surprising (to me) how polarising off dry rizzas can be, particularly given the similar residual sweetness levels of many more popular wine styles (such as cheap sparkling whites). I was just a little worried that this might have been too sweet for my family though (who don't typically like them 'fruity') but with honey ham it just worked. Win.

The wine itself is still bursting with sulphur though, with lemon and grapefruit layers peeking out from underneath. In fact, even after 6 hours in the glass (an errant glass not finished earlier) and the sulphur still hasn't blown off, which is a quibble (I quibble even at Christmas). Luckily the juice underneath is absolutely first rate then, with a creamy, nervy line of grapefruit, mineral and lemon fruit, the grainy, citrus richness of residual sugar woven through the prominent acidity to make for a snaking, complex and finely balanced wine of finesse and style. Yummo.

Lovely off dry Riesling of proper form and structure this. Very good. 17.9/93

Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2009 (Martinborough, NZ) 13.5%
I'd rate this up in my top handful of NZ Chardonnays, sitting just below Neudorf and Kumeu River in my personal favourites. This 2009 is a seriously good release too. Another win.

It's always a 'big wine' is the Craighall, so it's probably not going to be for everyone (my ABC subscribing mum was no fan. 'I just don't like Chardonnay') yet I'm absolutely down with the style.

That weight is announced from the outset, the nose flush with peach and grapefruit, spicy vanillan oak and a real suggestion of ripe fruit.

The palate starts off quite lean, but gathers steam as it moves along, moving through citrus, thickened cream oak, and orange, the acidity a thick vein that holds this richness together. The overall effect is just a lovely, full flavoured mouthful of Chardonnay goodness in a 'this is how new world Chardonnay should taste like' form. Yes. 18.4/94

Contrada Rampante 2008 (Sicily, Italy) 15%
Horribly corked. 'Are you sure that it's wine' corked. Sigh. Fail.

Raogna Pajé 2003 (Barbaresco, Italy) 13.5%
Not corked (sigh of relief). In the zone actually. Old school, rustic, oxidative (but clean) Barbaresco that is just begging for red meat. Begging. Yum.

It smells it's age, does this red, which actually means nothing in Nebbiolo terms, but worth noting in passing perhaps. It's a nose of Nebbiolo goodness though, full of iron, and blood and dirt and metal filings and roasted meat. All secondary, all very un-fruit like, but with enough freshness to carry everything off. If anything it's just a fraction roasted, as befitting the very warm vintage, though again not heavy.

The main feature of the palate too is classical Neb tannins - dry, long, grainy, tea leaf tannins. It's those tannins that have you coming back, as they are delightfully firm, long and serious. I'm not totally taken by the rest of the palate, which is just a fraction overripe and carrying the nuttiness that cooked fruit carries (and is evident in plenty of 08 South Australian reds), but the wine viewed as a complete package is still tasty, especially when drunk with said red meats.

Good stuff, if just off great. 17.3/90

Morris Old Premium (Rare) Tokay NV (Rutherglen, Vic) 18%
Forget dessert wine (ok, so maybe I did) this is THE way to finish off an Australian Christmas lunch. In fact, we should all pledge to all drink this stuff at the finish of every boozy lunch. (That's it, I'm starting a website...)

The Morris fortified style is typically a richer, sweeter one compared to some neighbours, which makes for seriously opulent wines. Suffice to say that I like opulent (even if I think that Chambers has the edge in overall quality stakes and Campbells makes a better Tokay) which is why I like this wine. Alot.

Typically volatile on the nose (it's part of the style, not a distraction), it smells quite oaky, with a dark chocolate and coffee edge that is very alluring, if quite sweet. A swimsuit model wine if ever there was one. Happily, welcomingly, typically, the palate is all choc-coffee liquid fruitcake, rich and heady, if not quite as petite and 'varietal' as some other Rutherglen Tokays. It's a big, warming mouthful of deliciousness, with that long long long long palate that the magic of Rutherglen Tokay and Muscat shows to distinction.

The end result? It's just yum. A big, sweet and full Tokay, full of heart and sweetness, if not quite as nuanced as some others from the region. But I'm nitpicking, and nitpicking over something that is absolutely world class in the quality stakes. 18.7/95

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 2003

Chateau d'Yquem 2003 (Sauternes, France)
$350 (approx 375ml), Cork, 13.5%

Firstly, a big thanks has to go to Patrick The Wining Pom for sharing this bottle with us. It was, as Patrick describes so well here, a wonderful experience to enjoy a world class wine with the some likely winos.

And world class it was. Near perfect even. Everything you could possibly want in a botrytised sweet wine. What I remember most (it was a long night) was the length. It's the sort of wine that you can't forget, for it lingers. Specifics? On the nose this showed pineapple, creme caramel and lemon/orange marmalade characters with some custard oak on the fringes. Palate wise it's rich - a warm year wine - and plusher than some other Yquems, loaded with more of the orange/lemon marmalade fruit flavours alongside ginger, pineapple and toffee. Lots of flavour here, bounds of flavour even, all honey sweet and viscous through the middle.

At this point it sounds sweet and fat doesn't it? But that's where the juxtaposition starts, for it's a sweet wine that's firmly acidic, marked by plenty of that grapefruit natural acid. What really propels this forward too - and marks it as something special - is just how perfectly balanced it is. It's a massive wine, loaded with serious botrytis characters and intense sweetness (which I'll admit not everyone loves) but it never actually feels heavy, or tart, or even overly sweet. It's just perfect.

Yes. More please. Absolute perfection in a bottle. 19.5/98

Saturday, 7 August 2010

3 faces of the Grampians

3 faces of the Grampians

With an unbroken wine history dating back to 1862, the Grampians has no shortage of vinous kudos. Yet, as a wine region it's in something of a state of flux, with a winemakers association that is being torn apart by internal politics, amidst a generally fragmented community of vignerons.

In this post then I'm going to look - from slightly different angles - at three different Grampians wine producers that I visited last weekend, all with much vested in the region and all producing valid Grampians styles. Hopefully what comes out is a small snapshot of some of the 'faces' of this quietly magnificent wine region.

Mt Langi Ghiran

Mount Langi Ghiran cellar door. Stunning
The picture (left) is just one scene from what has to be one of the more dramatic sites in Australian wine.

Mount Langi Ghiran (the estate) is built into the side of it's namesake: a dramatic granite outcrop sitting near the north eastern boundary of the Grampians region. With a viticultural history that dates back to the 1870s (though with a gap of 75 odd years from the late 1890s to the early 1960s) Mount Langi Ghiran can rightly claim a stake as one of the more important/famous wine producers of the region.

Fittingly, the Mount Langi cellar door itself (as depicted in the photo above/left) is a striking place: Modern, well integrated and set to a stunning backdrop. Striking too, as Mount Langi is an isolated part of the world, in both wine and geographical terms, with the constant winds and spooky looking mountain all making for what is quite a stark - and almost unfriendly - setting.

The whole estate, from a wine point of view, looks special, suggesting that there should be special wine produced here. In all honesty, however, I came away disappointed.

The biggest disappointment lies at the cellar door. For what is a somewhat remote place (45 minutes from anywhere) the range of wines on for tasting is sparse, with only a small selection of the mid priced wines available to sample at the cellar door. I well understand the challenges of quiet cellar doors (and many other Grampians/Pyrenees producers do even more so) but to turn up at such a stunning location, in rural Victoria, and only get to taste a mere sniff of what the site can do feels like a slap in the face. If Langi are worried about wastage, or bus tours or whatever, charge a $5 (or even $10 to taste the top wine) tasting fee to cover costs. I certainly would have paid it.

Anyway, rant over. For those wines that were on tasting (Cliff Edge range mostly) the initial impressions - drawn from the whites - are of purity, expression and flavour, comfortably ticking all the right boxes. But this consistency doesn't translate into the reds which - to my tastes - are almost ubiquitously overripe.

Obviously the question of ripeness and balance is a subjective one, and I'm hypercritical of anything showing excessive ripeness, but seriously, 15% alcohol on a cool climate Cabernet (as found in the 2005 Langi Cabernet)? Why? All it does it burn off regional/varietal characters, leaving just another boozy new world red.

As if to prove the point, A 2003 Langi Shiraz also consumed over the weekend was suitably dried out, forward and lacking in enough fruit to keep up with the structure, further emphasising the problems of such excesses.

Regardless, it's a beautiful site, the vines look healthy and the top Langi Shiraz is selling like hotcakes (to considerable critical acclaim). In truth I really want to like these wines, for the mid to late 90's Langi's were such impressive things. All it would take is for the same vitality shown in the (early picked) whites to be carried through to the reds. Obviously the winery has a style (one of impact and richness) though and they are sticking by it. It's just not my favoured style.

(Would be interested to hear other opinions on this. Also interested to try the new 07 and 08 vintage Langi Shiraz - perhaps the balance has been restored?).

The wine highlights:

Mount Langi Ghiran 'Cliff Edge' Pinot Gris $25
I really quite enjoyed this. Textural, long and succulent Pinot Gris with pear and honey on a crisp and quite long backbone. Nice wine. Plenty of appeal here.


Simon Clayfield himself
It riles Simon a bit, but the tagline in Halliday's Wine Companion is that of 'former Best's winemaker', even though he left there back in 1997. But it is relevant for context.

For behind the trademark moustache - and ability to talk underwater - lies a highly experienced winemaker, one who has almost 25 Grampians vintages (many of which were served at Best's) under his belt and a whole network of local grower contacts to call on.

That last bit is important, for Simon's own Clayfield vineyard is just 13 years old, and has had only a handful of commercial harvests in that time, due mainly to problems with drought and bushfire. Instead, it has been several old vineyards -  notably the Robinson vineyard on Mt Ararat - that have provided the backbone for the Clayfield wines.

Now Simon, like many of the regions producers, concentrates on Shiraz. In fact, besides a token Pyrenees Sauvignon Blanc, all he makes is Grampians Shiraz. As a result, and given some of the success/critical acclaim his wines has enjoyed over the years, you could call him a Grampians Shiraz expert.

Little wonder then that his wines show the regional style with aplomb. Even in 2008 - which produced plenty of seriously big, alcoholic wines - the regional spiciness is present (though I'm not a massive fan of the two 08 Shiraz, which are just too ripe for me) and the wines taste balanced.

Still, don't come here looking for elegance, for whilst the alcohol doesn't generally stand out (08's excepted), the wines are built unashamedly lavish (but in a good way).

The wine highlights:

Clayfield Shiraz 1999

A back vintage curio, this was one of Simon's first wines and it was looking in very good shape. Big, still quite firm and dense, with layer upon layer of spicy fruit. Pepper, both black and white, and no shortage of it either. Lovely.

Clayfield Shiraz 2006 ($45)
Take the above wine and subtract 7 years. It's probably not as spicy as the 1999 - and not likely to end up that way either - but entirely enjoyable in a more luscious style. It's all about purple plum fruit and no shortage of viscous warmth, but still with solid fruit tannins and a firm line through the finish. Good stuff. Tasty.


140 year old Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir vines
Arguably the leading producer in the Grampians (particularly thanks to the wane of Seppelt's star post Fosters takeover), you can't talk about this part of the world without focusing on the (resurgent) Best's.

I won't bore you with this wineries history (it's all here) but suffice to say that Trevor Mast (who owned Langi up until recently) made wine here in the 70's/mid 80's and Simon Clayfield made wine here in the late 80's/mid 90's, making Best's particularly pertinent to this story.

What I really want to focus on though is the more recent history. For Best's, like many successful family wine companies, has basically reinvented itself in recent years, simplifying themselves even.
You can see the results of this process at the winery itself - witness, for example, the large scale, multi thousand litre tanks that sit out next to the winery shed. If you were to take a peak inside these tanks you'd notice that they no longer hold wine and are now full of water. The large airbag presses don't get much work these days either, with small batches and basket presses utilised for much of the top wines.

Similarly, at cellar door, the cheaper 'Victorian' range is being gradually phased out as the 'Great Western' range takes more prominence, the winery in effect dragging their whole persona back to where it started at sleepy Great Western.

It's a smart move - or at least I think so - from a marketing perspective, particularly given that 'Great Western' is one of only two specific subregions in Victoria (along with the Nagambie Lakes in the Goulburn Valley), making the area itself even more unique/special.

Wine wise, the 'Great Western' range has had some new releases of late too, including a lauded Sparkling Shiraz - that they can't produce enough of - and a young vine Pinot Meunier. Upcoming additions include a single block 2010 Riesling (which I can confirm is particularly interesting) and a Cabernet blend from some of the oldest Cabernet vines on the Concongella vineyard.

It's all very positive indeed.

The only challenges for Best's now is what to do with the - now 80 year old - St Andrews vineyard at Lake Boga (near Swan Hill). What do you do with a major vineyard asset, that now produces grapes that cost more to pick than they do to produce? What a quandary....

The wine highlights

Best's Bin 0 Great Western Shiraz 1997
Delicious stuff. I believe that it was Campbell Mattinson that talked of 'plum essence' as the quintessential Grampians Shiraz character and this is laden with it.

From an exceptional vintage, this shows a spiced plum nose backed by a rich, plum essence palate that is simultaneously sweet and spicy (in contrast to some Grampians Shiraz which can be simply sweet). Still full of primary fruit and topped off with fine tannins, this will make attractive old bones.

Yum (I drank most of a bottle of this).

Best's Thomsen Family Shiraz 2006
Mid weight, pepper driven Shiraz that is very tightly bound and structure driven, but oh so classic. Will turn out to be a more elegant wine than the 1997 above, in a positive way. Top wine. Long long long termer and drinking at its best 3 days after opening (according to
Julian Coldrey who finished the bottle).

Best's Pinot Meunier 1976

Plucked out of the Best's cellar last Saturday and drank that night, this was quite decayed on the nose but with a lovely sweet fruited palate. Palate particularly showed prominent acidity, with a trademark Best's Pinot Meunier treacly bite. Surprisingly, this actually improved with time in the glass, which only enhanced the appeal. Interesting curio and in very good shape.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Assorted Tassie wines

These notes come from a tasting that was almost 6 months ago now (so some of the wines might have well changed a bit since) but I think the highlights would remain the same.

Stefano Lubiana Brut NV
Green apple and cream overlay. Fresh and youthful but with some proper depth behind it. Quite long and fresh palate with proper acidity. Impressive and excellent value. 17.6/92

Stefano Lubiana Riesling 2008
Muted, green nose, dry restrained and minerally, pristine palate. Primordial. Serious juice here. 17.3/91+

Stefano Lubiana Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Green and grassy nose. Sour and grassy palate has nice weight and lots of intensity but just a smidgen too grassy for me. No doubting the quality. 17.3/91

Stefano Lubiana Primavera Chardonnay 2008
Doing a fair 'modern style' Chablis impersonation. Slate and cream leads to clear and finely oaked palate that is clean and refreshing. Excellent Chardonnay and seriously good value. 18/93

Stefano Lubiana Estate Chardonnay 2005
Creamy bottle development with some icing sugar and marzipan that goes through the whole palate. Long and very well formed. Rich and delicious. 18.3/93

Stoney Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Soft and feline if vegetative nose. Dry and very well formed palate that is long if lacking in some punch. Lots of interest though. 17.2/91

Domaine A 'Lady A' 2006
Needs some time. Nose just shows a little tinned asparagus and pineapple, with a dry palate that's just a little raw at present, the oak poking through. Good wine underneath everything. 17.5/92+

Josef Chromy Pinot Chardonnay 2005
Nice Brioche and Sao like bottle age flavours on the nose and start of the palate, but back end a little callow and finishes with blunt acidity. 16.7/88

Frogmore Creek Dry Riesling 2008
Quite advanced nose with the first beginnings of petrol. Palate is stuck in a developmental hole and showing very little. Not convinced but will improve with bottle age. 16.5/88+

Frogmore Creek FGR Riesling 2009
Mute, honey tinged nose. Palate starts well but residual sweetness poorly integrated. Not a massive fan. 16/87

Bay of Fires Sparkling Rose NV
Creamy strawberry nose, dry and slightly tart palate. Awkward acidity. 16.5/88

Bay of Fires Riesling 2008
Developing nose, toasty green apple palate starts soft but finishes with serious grip. Needs some more bottle age but like the structure and potential. 17/90

Bay of Fires Chardonnay 2008
Not as big a fan of this as I have been on other occasions, specifically due to some blunt oak. Palate is still quite long and well formed. 17.3/91

Tamar Ridge Sparkling 1996
10 years+ on lees
Heavily bottle aged and autolysis dominated palate nose, heading towards caramelised. Palate shows excellent weight but is just a bit tired. 17/90

Stefano Lubiana Primavera Pinot Noir 2008
Lovely strawberry fragrance. Really full and opulent. Acid pokes out a bit on the palate but still a nice Pinot that should look really good with some further bottle age. 17.5/91

Stefano Lubiana Pinot Noir 2007
Strawberry and red fruit with a bit of undergrowth on the nose. Very Pinolicious nose. Palate is, like the Primavera, a touch angular with awkward acid, but no questioning the class. 17.8/92

Stoney Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007
Typically idiosyncratic. High tolerance of Eucalypt and spearmint required. Raspy minty palate is not without charm but still marginal. 16/87

Domaine A Pinot Noir 2005
Mushroomy nose backed by spearmint. Slow cooked beef in there for good measure. Firm and acidic structure is commendable but, like all Domaine A wines, it really needs some more bottle age to be a good drink. 17/90+

Stoney Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Pencils, sap, spearmint on the nose and plenty of mint on the palate. Savoury and not ungenerous palate though shortish finish. Drinkable though not for everyone. 17.2/90

Domaine A Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Classic. Pencil shavings, cedar and black meaty fruit. Tight, finely balanced proper left bank style thats wonderfully unsweet and interesting. Needs another 5 years in the bottle, but so much to like here. 18.3/93+

Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2008
Sappy, slippery and quite firm Pinot with a big structure and plenty of impact. Needs some bottle age to come together but serious wine here. Good value too. 17.6/92+

Frogmore Creek Iced Riesling 2007
Volatile and just a bit raspy, this seems to lack some finesse, though I suspect it should improve with further bottle age. 16.8/89+

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Barossa Shiraz - The Icons and Wannabes Tasting

Barossa Shiraz - The Icons and Wannabes Tasting

"The Cream, the Whole Cream, and Nothing but the Cream"
Johannes Menges, Mineralogist and one of the Barossa's first settlers, 1836

I stole that line from the official 'Barossa' website ( as it fits in very nicely with the theme of this tasting (and it sounds great too - it just rolls off the tongue).

The premise of this tasting, held by Sydney' Oak Barrel, was simple - gather 10 Shiraz based (more Shiraz!) Barossan reds and pit them against each other in a proper, old school, sit down blind tasting.

Now that's hardly a unique proposition (just 10 wines?) but the format in this instance had a twist: The ten wines on offer were from 5 different wineries, with each winery contributing one absolute shit hot, ultra mega super premium ducks nuts icon Shiraz, as well as an entry level, value packed, fighting label, QPR heavy Shiraz.

In that fashion, you had fun quasi quaffers and mega buck Parker fan moisteners all mixed in together, and then presented to a group of grateful wine lovers (myself and Rod, from Red to Brown, included)

The results?

Fun. Heaps of it. I dig blind tasting, particularly with quality wines, and particularly with quality wines that I would actually buy and drink myself. So triple ticks.

Unsurprisingly, two of my favourite wines came from just a pair of individual vineyards - that sit right next to each other - in the shit hot Flaxmans Valley (situated in the shit hot Barossa Ranges).

Conversely, the wines I liked the least either had suspected Viognier in them (weed) or were just too hot for real drinking pleasure.

So I've listed all of my notes from this tasting below, along with the groups preferences. Group preferences are an important figure, as it just shows how much diversity of opinion there was regarding the favoured wines. In other words, there was something for everyone in amongst this lot.

Oh and apologies in advance for the lack of flow in these notes. I'm just posting them in raw form, as they were written. The prices quoted are RRP.

All wines decanted for 6 hours before tasting.
Wine 1: Chris Ringland Barossa Shiraz 2008
Sourced from the valley floor, 16.5% alcohol, $23.95
Strawberry red pink rim. Very dense caramel and fig nose. Lots of raw American oak. Nice fragrance if just a bit cherry ripe-ish in its density and oak. Very ripe, luscious, but attenuated by alcohol through the finish. Raw oak. Could be an icon, but didn't totally move me, more mid level. 17.3/91 (My 5th, Group 9th)

Wine 2: First Drop Mothers Milk Shiraz 2008
Sourced from three vineyards, one near Rosedale in the SW Barossa, another near Greenock in the NW Barossa and a third near Wilton in the Eden Valley. 15 months in 3-4yr old French hogsheads. 14.5% alc, $29.95
Denser and darker than wine 1. Much more purple in colour. Volatile nose. Deeper, more red fruit, hot red fruit and cherry liqueur. Tastes Northern Barossan, choc Ebenezer-ish (somewhat wrong there). Oak is well integrated - very classy. Alcohol heat through the finish. More in the Torbreck style. Less raw than wine 1, yet still ultimately hot. Really solid through the middle though. (Drinkable and good value stuff) 17.5/92 (My 4th, Group 3rd)

Wine 3: Kaesler Old Bastard Shiraz 2006
Sourced from the 1893 home block, planted just near the winery near Nurioopta. 19 months in Burgundian oak. Bottled without fining or filtration. 15.5% alc, $190
Quite purple and very densely coloured. Smells oaky, oak driven, raw oak nose. Strained fruit, but without losing vibrancy. Still a skinny nose. Very raw and oaky, astringent oak, with oak shadowing the fruit. Oak tannins. Do you like expensive French oak? (this got better with more time in the glass, hence the score went up, still rather OTT). 17/90 (My 6th, Group 7th)

Wine 4: Chris Ringland (Formerly Three Rivers) Shiraz 2003
Sourced from the estate vineyard in the Flaxmans Valley, planted in 1910. 42 months in new French oak!. 15.6% alc, $850
Lighter edges. Looks older. Boot polish and leather. Classy nose. More iconic. Big and luscious, classy oak. Much more fruit here. Kirsch. Savoury and very deep fruited. Eden? (got one right). Blacker fruit. Leather, both new and old. Classy. No heat. (God I enjoyed this. So deep. Very drinkable too. Yum) 18.5/95 (My 2nd, Group 10th!)

Wine 5: Torbreck Woodcutters Shiraz 2008
Sourced mainly from the Northern Barossa - Marananga, Greenock, Ebenezer, Gomersal, Moppa & Kalimna. 12 months in well seasoned French hogsheads and foudres. Unfined and unfiltered. 14.5% $32.95
Mid red, purple edges. Spicy plum liqueur and pepper. Lifted by alcohol but ultimately quite pretty. Sweet fruit and candied lolly nose. Candied. Palate is hot and sweet, lots of sweet fruit. Obviously raisined and pruney, but curiously not oppressive. Very youthful, with an unusual skinsy overtone. Intriguing (After a while I decided this was too sweet and ordinary and the score went down dramatically) 16/87 (My 10th, Group 6th)

Wine 6: Torbreck The Laird Shiraz 2005
Sourced from the Gnadenfrei vineyard, located on the ridge between Seppeltsfield and Marananga in the Northern Barossa. Matured for 36 months in Dominique Laurent's 'magic casks'. Bottled without fining or filtration. 15.58% alc, $825
More age here. Very raisined. Overripe. Lots of oak. Caricature of a nose. Overripe and porty on the palate. Dry and very much red port like on the palate. Do you like Aussie port? As a table wine it's ridiculous, as a port it might be alright. Varnished floorboards. Saddles. Ridiculous. (Just not my style of wine I'm afraid) 16.5/88 (My 8th, Group 2nd)

Wine 7: First Drop 'The Cream' Shiraz 2006
41% Greenock, 35% Ebenezer, 24% Seppeltsfield. Best barrels blend. 24 months in 40% new French hogsheads, 30% new American barriques. 15% alc, $125
Intrigue. Closed nose. Brooding and deep. Toast and lots of depth. More old school. Very dark. Rockford-ish. Meat and real chunk. Dark and deep. Quite tannic too. Subtle. Swallowable. (Beautiful wine this one. Delicious. Very backwards too. My sort of wine) 18.7/95 (My 1st, Group 5th)

Wine 8: Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz 200812 months in 3 year old plus oak.
Pruney, sweet nose again. Shiraz Viognier (bingo! Though its only got a smidgen apparently). Pretty colour too. Sweet and light wine that's attractive but stunted. (Lots of commercial appeal, but not for me) 16.4/88 (My 9th, Group 4th)

Wine 9: Hobbs Shiraz 2007
Hand picked from vines planted circa 1905 located next door to the Three Rivers vineyard. 24 months in new French hogsheads. 16% alc, $155
Lighter, redder. Very volatile. Chocolate prunes. Sweetly oak and sweet fruit, but backed by savoury fruit. Savoury and complex. Nuanced even. Not quite a superstar, but very savoury, honest and delicious. 18.2/93 (My 3rd, Group 1st)

Wine 10: Hobbs 'Gregor' Shiraz 2007
Produced off a parcel of Shiraz planted in 1988, located in the Flaxmans Valley. Fruit is handpicked and then semi dried in an Amarone style. Aged in new French oak for 24 months. 16% alc, $155
Choc bullet oak. Very chocolatey nose. All chocolate oak. Fleshy, rich but simple palate. Falls away towards the tail, which is caramelised and hot. Hard. (I'll take the standard Shiraz). 16.6/88 (My 7th, Group 8th)