Showing posts with label Red Blends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Red Blends. Show all posts

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Eloquesta 'A Boy with Fruit' No.1

Eloquesta 'A Boy with Fruit' No.1 (Mudgee, NSW)
14.5%, Screwcap, $28

Stuart Olsen, Eloquesta winemaker, told me recently that he can't get the 'set-minded, grumpy old men wine reviewers to appreciate what he's doing'.

With wines like this I can totally understand why...

As the press release states, this is made using a 'pastiche of techniques' involving grapes from the 2013 vintage fermented alongside aged pressings from 2009 and 2010.
The blend too is unusual, featuring Shiraz (co-fermented with a little Viognier), Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Surprisingly enough it works though with this unusual, boysenberry coloured red genuinely intriguing.

It all kicks off with a big hit off wth Ribena fruit juice on the nose - that's the fresh 2013 vintage component kicking in. The pressings character sits underneath, giving thickness and a sense of savouriness to everything. There's more surprise on the palate, which is lively and layered, topped off with fine natural tannins to punctuate things nicely.

Ultimately a hard wine to pin down perhaps, swirling from juicy black fruited (little oak to speak of), to quite drying and earthen - even complete with a little Mudgee mud. That complexity, however, is something to be admired and the whole wine feels 'real' - not a corner cut.

A quirky, yet satisfying, drink, I'd like to see even more wildness (and maybe some dried grapes - it would work nicely here), but I can't fault either the fun or the tastiness.

Source: Sample
Tasted: May 2014
Drink: 2014-2018
Score: 17.7/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? Yes. Would share a bottle methinks.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Head Wines New Releases

Head Wines New Releases

Alex and myself drinking rose correctly.
Great haircuts
Great haircut, great wines...

That's the Alex 'Heady' Head story, with his Head Wines label hitting ever higher heights, as he proudly shows that the nude-nut hairstyle is the way to go (hair is so 2010, trust me).

This year the big fella has expanded his range of Barossan goodies to finally hit into the super-premium category, with a pair of glorious old vine reds serving as a natural addition to the portfolio.

Happily, they're as impressive as expected too, with all of the structure and savoury leanings that I'd expect from someone who is such a fan of classic Rhone reds.

Having tried some of Alex's very first wines all those years ago, it's rather satisfying to see just how far this project has come - from a sideline winemaking hobby into a serious stand-alone operation, complete with the sort of wines that I would want to make in the Barossa (no Mataro though. That would be high on my list).

The wines

Tasted over an hour or so in a larger lineup. Notes are as written on the day with my little extra bits in italics. Buy online at the Head Wines website

Head Wines Nouveau 2013 12.5% $17.50
Touriga, Montepulciano, Grenache. An easy drinking style but just a bit simplistic and candied for me. The only wine in this lineup that didn't impress.

Bright purple - really very purple. Grapey hubba bubba palate with a slightly herbal edge in there - spice aplenty. Red fruit joy. Pretty easy going juice with lenty of acid, shortish length. Pleasant and unremarkable - it feels like a house wine, gummy and carbonic. Quaff, but no more. 15.5/20, 85/100

Head Wines Head Red GSM 2013 14.5% $22.50
A declassification from the Old Vine Grenache. Sourced largely from a 100yr old vineyard at Greenock.

Joyfully Grenachey, with red fruit warmth and some bitter licorice too. Has whispy tannins and a sense of blackness. Warm finish. Utterly Barossan and quite lively. Easy recommend and delicious, if just a bit boozy. Already open and ready, maybe not the length to take it much further. 16.8/20, 89/100

Head Wines Head Red Shiraz 2013 14% $22.50
A barrel cull from the Contrarian, Blonde and Brunette wines. 12 months in oak. Great value.

A bit warm and licoricey, all black/red fruits. Gentle and even a bit earthen this year, looking less simple and quite substantial if barely bottled. Great late palate intensity - compact and feels like culled barrels from the big gun single vineyard wines, without quite the oak. Nice savoury finish. This is bang on the money. 17.5/20, 91/100

Head Wines Old Vine Grenache 2013 14.5% $35
Sourced from an old vineyard at Krondorf. Partial whole bunches and all seasoned oak. No fining or filtration and minimal sulphur. Love to see this again in 6 months time.

Essence of Grenache. A little volatile to start. Lovely pretty redskin fruits and some very slippery tannins for Grenache, looking blacker as the palate progresses - hunkers down through the finish. Great length. Pretty satisfying in its Grenache openness, with some complexity too. Still coming together but a definite star for Grenache fans. Needs six months to flesh out and the nose to settle.  17.7/20, 92/100+

Head Wines Ancestor Vine Grenache 2013 14.5% $90
A brand new wine for Alex. Sourced from a 155yr old vineyard at Springton in the Eden Valley that was planted by the Seppelt family. 100% whole bunch, daily foot-treading for two weeks. One single barrel produced (50 dozen). Incredible wine, best comparable to a modern, top shelf Chateuneuf.

Woah. Red licorice and quite high toned for a Grenache with wafts of heady volatiles. It's a big wine for a Grenache too, with less of the redcurrant and more deeper black flavours, with a sense of the unknown old vine intensity and long tannins - really rather molten black fruit and tannins that rumble through the back palate. Excellent intensity and superb tannins - way too long for normal Grenache. Top level of tannins. It needs time to come together, but those tannins alone are marvellous. Incredibly impressive wine. 18.9/20, 95/100

Head Wines 'The Blonde' Shiraz 2012 14.3% $40
From a single vineyard in Stonewell which includes some grey sands (hence The Blonde). Includes up to 5% Viognier skins (though not in every fermentation batch). Two seperate clones of Shiraz.

Ah, charcuterie! There's some charred, sausagey complexity here which adds interest. Lovely perfume and shape, if just a little stunted through the middle - it really needs a few years. Lovely blackness and impressive tannin. A delicious wine just looking to find its feet. 18.5/20, 94/100+

Head Wines 'The Brunette' Syrah 2012 13.9% $40
All Shiraz and comes out of a single vineyard at Moppa Hill that includes some brown ironstone rocks. Includes some whole bunches in the ferment. This looked just a little flatter compared to the Blonde, though I think they're not far off in the scheme of things. Worth a revisit in a year or threes time. Buy a six pack of each?

Definitely the most mainstream of the line and already open for business - there's a coffeed character here which you'd almost call American oak of I didn't know better. Open knit tannins too. More conventional but not to be doubted. Already likeable. 18.2/20 93/100

Head Wines 'The Redhead' Shiraz 2012 14% $90
From a single vineyard near Moculta in the Eden Valley. Supremely stylish Shiraz, shaded only by the 'specialness' of the Ancient Vines Grenache.

Black colour. Huge colour intensity. A little sausages and anise and backed by a linear and very proud palate. Hello new Barossa! Fine coffeed tannins. Gritty tannins. Great composure. Very Sausagey and Rhoney for Eden! Takes aim squarely at HoG here! Underplayed oak. Magnificent length and power. Top shelf. 18.7/20, 95/100

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Torzi Matthews 1903 Old Vines Grenache Mataro of Domenico Martino 2012

Torzi Matthews 1903 Old Vines Grenache Mataro of Domenico Martino 2012 (Barossa Valley, SA)
14.2%, Screwcap, $35
Source: Sample

A mouthful of a name but I think you get the drift...
Only one guess on the price

This red blend comes from the irrepressible Dom Torzi, utilising fruit from the low yielding old Moppa Hill vineyard of Domenico Martino in the Barossa Valley. Its specifically a blend of 50% Grenache 50% Mataro, the fruit hand picked with both varieties fermented together (30% whole bunch) using natural vineyard yeasts in open top milk vats.

Oh and once fermentation had finished, this was then basket pressed to 3-4yr old oak where it then spends 14 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.

I like that handling. Modern handling, but with a gentle touch.

I like these words on the back label too:

'An ancient single vineyard planted in 1903, it lays upon hard melding shales of ironstone, quartz and white sands. Naturally dry grown with an easterly aspect, among the fruit orchards and wheat fields. A wine of purity, freshness and harmony.'

There is so very much I like much about this wine really. High-five Dom Torzi (again). I had 'purity' written down before even sighting the back label, the wine showcasing the mid-weight, bright and fruity Grenache grapiness apparent from the outset.

There's a hint of carbonic tutti-frutti, and a veneer of vanilla bean oak, but otherwise it's just lovely bright fruit, layers of flavour and fine tannins. It's perhaps a little simple, a little warm but that wonderful pure red fruit is intoxicating (in more ways than one).

Delicious. I went back for more.

Drink: 2013-2020
Score: 18/20, 93/100
Would I buy it? Yes.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Brilliant Priorat: Vall Llach 2006

Brilliant Priorat: Vall Llach 2006 (Priorat, Spain)
15.85%, Cork, $180
Source: Tasting

It's wines like this that make me wish I was a wealthier man. Wealthy so that I could afford to buy cases of this, rather than just snaffle the odd small glass to taste...

The Vall Llach old plantings. Woah

Simply put, this is a special wine.

It's when you look at pictures of the Vall Llach vineyard (above) that the reason for this 'specialness' becomes apparent. It looks amazing. Wild amazing. Think gnarled, highish altitude, old (100 years+ for the mature plantings) Carinena and Garnacha bush vines, all planted on unforgiving, 25-85%(!) schist slopes, with the ancient vines complemented by more modern Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah planted on special rock terraces.

It's an incredibly unique environment that sits at the very edge of achievable viticulture (with not a tractor in site. Hand-everything required here) and delivers sublime wines to match.

This wine, the flagship, is a blend of 65% Carinena (Carignan), 15% Syrah, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot, the wine fermented long, slow and coolish with maximum pre and post-ferment maceration in French oak barriques and hogsheads for 12 months.

What's most remarkable about this red blend is that - despite the hostile rocky soils and slopes, roasting climate and the obvious ripeness of the style - this retains minerality and freshness. It's hugely rich and massively concentrated, all braised meat and dried black fruit, the flavours ultra compact and firm, yet also with a sparkling minerally finish. The ultra firm, multi-layered palate has a chewiness to it and also a sense of liveliness, the sign of vines in balance.

Simply put, I was compelled. Seems more like 14.5% alcohol rather than 15.8%. Further, I struggle to describe the perfect shape of those tannins. They're refreshing tannins actually, dry and firm yet lively. Come-back-for-more tannins that are too wide and broad to be Bordeaux and probably closer to Amarone tannins if anything. But brilliant.

Obviously this is not a wine for the faint hearted, yet it also feels rather perfect in its expression of sandy, rocky soils, ridiculous slopes and altitude, ultimately making for a bloody delicious and wonderfully intriguing wine. I'd love some of this in my cellar so very very much.

Drink: 2013-2025
Score: 18.7/20 95/100
Would I buy it? I'm thinking about buying some in the UK as it is that much cheaper over there..

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Profound Amarone: Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella 2000

Quintarelli Amarone della Valpolicella 2000 (Verona, Italy)
16.5%, Cork, $650 (if you can find some)
Source: Kindly fellow wine judge

Another wine that had a starring role at the NSW Wine Awards Judges Dinner, and again it was a first for me. My first Quintarelli that is, an estate that has a 'cult following' (particularly in the US), with this Amarone lauded as the one of the bestest Amarones ever in the history of the world. Or at least that is what you'd expect given the hype.

Since this bottle entered my life though I've become a Quintarelli convert, hunting down bottles all over the world to taste and buy, feeling like the wine equivalent of an obsessed One Direction fan buying memorabilia (except with Italian vino).

This wine was, quite simply, the most profound Amarone and indeed one of the finest Italian reds I've ever tasted. An Amarone that is as far from the volatile, dried out and hard standard Amarone style as can be imagined.

Part of the intrigue surely must be from the winemaking itself - the Quintarelli wines spend up to 8 years in large wood, the Amarone only released in certain vintages and only when deemed ready. The late Giuseppe Quintarelli (whom passed earlier this year) was also a famous perfectionist, his winemaking style an exact and uncompromising one.

The grape mix is unique too - largely Corvina and Rondinella with less Molinara, complemented by Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo. Such a mix is anything but traditional, even though the big oak and methods are entirely old school.

This contrast - and the aforementioned attention to detail - ultimately adds up to one seriously engaging wine.

It's an evolved and meaty wine at that, the nose heavy with dense caramelised red fruit and that unmissable Amarone concentration. It's a warm nose, but not excessively volatile, the long barrel maturation apparently failing to flatten the nose. That vibrancy connects through to the palate too, the fudge-cake rich and seamless in that 'oak aged forever' style. The oak here gives textural weight, yet it doesn't taste oaky, another paradox to tick off.

Ultimately what makes this so satisfying is the length - it's incredibly long and fresh and long and vibrant. Just the longest, most defined and powerful red with a palate silkiness yet with proper tannins too. I didn't even notice the alcohol on the palate either. What a brilliant, complex and involving wine.

Drink: 2012-2032+
Score: 19.1/97
Would I buy it? If I could find some at a reasonable price I would. Currently having my UK connections investigate...

Monday, 16 July 2012

Between Five Bells new release: Even better

This was once two bottles of Between Five Bells.
Hello tissue paper!
Between Five Bells new releases: Even better

Perhaps it is just a deep-seeded love of presents. Maybe it is just because I'm a tactile person (and fancy soft paper feels excellent). Whatever it is, I really dig tissue wrapped bottles of wine.

Of course not any old bottle of tissue paper makes the grade for there are, like everything, rules for such things. The bottle has to be well wrapped for one, and the paper has to be thin - but not 'oh fuck I ripped it' thin. Nor must said paper be overly translucent (or waxy and stiff). Oh and a good print on the paper doesn't go astray. Maybe a shiny sticker on there too. Or racing stripes...

Naturally, tissue paper alone does not maketh a great wine (and it is annoying to good rid of. A bitch when it gets soggy too) and is only one part of the packaging glory that is these new Between Five Bells (or 'B5B' which is the correct acronym. The bottles say so) releases.

On the packaging note, I have to say (again) that I think these are the best wine labels in Australia. The infographics, the colours, the script, all of it - that detail is what makes these special. That white wax on the red too is super sexy (it's specially imported actually. Looks quite similar to the wax on the Patrick Piuze Chablis range).

Anyway, enough waffling about labels and such (which I quite like talking about). I've put a few more images of the bottles and labels (including the Rosé) up on the facebook site now.

Now then, as for these two new wines - well, they're as intriguing as you'd expect. More to the point, they have a certain congruency that makes them even more impressive than the initial releases before them (2010 Red and 2011 Rosé respectively). What's more, the 2012 wines to follow - from a far superior vintage - should be better again.

As ever these wines were made in a non-interventionist style (like everything is these days apparently) which means no additions, minimal fining/filtration and low sulphur regimes. They're also a melange of varieties with whole bunches, natural ferments and extended skin/solids contact.

2011 Between Five Bells White (Geelong, Vic)
12.8%, Screwcap, $29.50 (from the website)

I'm going to quote the PR blurb (which sounds very much like David Fesq's words) directly for this wines inspiration: 'The goal for this inaugural white was to share the delicious and intriguing qualities of the Red. To do this, we had committed to co-fermenting a number of varieties'.

Classy packaging. Red particularly so.
A blend of almost equal qualities of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Meunier all harvested and whole bunch pressed into 1000L cuves for primary fermentation. Extended solids contact and 100% malolactic fermentation to boot. TA 6.48. pH 3.38. 2700 bottles produced.
Much more information on the label!

Super aromatic style this, very much in an Alsace mould, though with a Chablis-esque minerality. All white peach and white flowers aromatics but with mandarin and and a hint of biscuity richness. The stamp of the super cool season is all over it too, but the weight of the winemaking just fills it out. There is much happening on the nose actually, with every whiff providing a new hint - Chardonnay white fruit, Riesling lime juice and the pear of Pinot Gris. Wonderful.

The palate too is a textural wonder. Vanilla bean oak, peachy Chardonnay juiciness, that malo richness softening what would have been rampant acidity. Light but rich, the length here is excellent too. Perhaps the only quibble is that the acidity is a little hard, the winemaking influences not softening things quite enough (a product of the season no doubt).

An Australian version of an Alsace field blend yet cooler and leaner, this is perhaps a little less polarising than previous B5B wines, but is also - in my opinion - the best B5B wine yet. I'd buy it.

Drink: 2012 - 2014+
Score: 18.1/93

Between Five Bells Red 2011 (Geelong, Vic)
13%, Cork, $31.50 (from website)

Again I'm going to quote away: 'The major influence on the flavour profile was the vintage conditions' and it's writ large too. Sangiovese and Zinfandel didn't get ripe in 2011, leaving this blend as mainly Shiraz with lesser amounts of Mourvedre and Grenache, topped off with 5% 2011 White.

40% whole bunch ferment for the Shiraz and differing amounts of whole berry ferments for the different varieties (for more info - lots more - check out the label). Matured in 2nd and 3rd use puncheons, this was bottled unfined and unfiltered. TA 7.2 pH 3.53. 3600 bottles produced.

It's going to be a polarising wine this one. Or it was amongst the non-wine geek (but still informed) drinkers I shared this with. In many ways it's quite Pinot like actually, starting with the bright, light red colour. It smells Pinotesque too - stemmy, and stalky and really rather backward, with tomato leaf and cranberry fruit. There is a certain sort of ripe red fruit on the nose but also hints of rot too.

The palate too is anything but fruity. It's smoky, and spicy and tangy, a bony and fragrant sort of wine with much acidity and a strong line of drying, tea leaf tannins. The challenge with this palate is just how pointed and firm it is - it's just crying out for more fruit sweetness really. Still, much to like about the form and line.

Drink: 2014 - 2018+
Score: 17.2/90+

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Wirra Wirra Church Block - a great way to spend $20

(A version of this article first appeared in the December issue of LattéLife magazine. Again it was written for a slightly different audience than this blog normally caters for but I think it works regardless. I'm interested in what you think, for it probably lacks the criticality I usually write with. Or maybe that's just me being over critical!).

As a wine writer it’s genuinely easy to get carried away about ultra premium wines. Ultra premium wines, with ultra premium price tags and found in the ultra premium section of ultra premium wine stores.

But, in reality, so few of us will ever get to enjoy such unobtainable luxury tipples that they’re basically irrelevant (except for a very select few).

Instead, what is perhaps more exciting is when we stumble across a wine that is both tasty AND affordable. Something that – if you shop around – can be picked up for well under $20, yet is genuinely well made and good quality whilst also being produced by one of the ‘good guys’ of the wine industry to boot.

I’m talking particularly about the humble Wirra Wirra Church Block (current vintage is 2009), a red wine that most Australian wine drinkers would easily recognise - particularly given how popular and widely distributed it is – and probably walk straight past.

What makes it worth the double-take however is what it isn’t. It’s not pretentious. It’s not produced from newly fashionable, unpronounceable indigenous Italian grape varieties. It’s not made in the hottest cool climate region of the moment, nor is it natural or preservative free. It is, in the scheme of things, a slightly unfashionable blend of Cabernet, Shiraz and Merlot, made in an oak rich, full bodied form that has changed very little since 1972.

It’s that unwavering, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ commitment to the style though that ultimately makes the Church Block such a satisfying drink, a commitment to producing a wine that will always be - and I’m quoting the winery directly here - a ‘smooth, soft red wine that balances the complexity sought by aficionados, with the approachability desired by those seeking pure drinking pleasure.’

Better still, the appeal of the Church Block red doesn’t just lie in its immediate drinking pleasure either, with a recent tasting of the 04 vintage suggesting that this humble wine should get even better with bottle age too, a characteristic not often found in your typical sub $20 red wine.

Ultimately what really drives the Church Block though is that it is a quintessentially Australian wine. A wine that carries its Mclaren Vale identity with distinction, acting as an accessible mascot for both the region and the style, helping to communicate quite clearly what it is that the Vale does so well – namely rich, soft, delicious and full flavoured red wines that simply over deliver for intensity and depth of flavour whilst also showing almost unbeatable value.


Sunday, 4 September 2011

Between Five Bells - stylish new Geelong wine

Between Five Bells - stylish new Geelong wine

Is this the best wine label in the country? (Click to view full size)
If you've a chance, check out the Five Bells website. It's not so much the structure of the clever website that's worth a look, but more the images of the labels. Simply put, these are some of the smartest packaged reds I've seen in many moons. 

Drilling down further, it's the information on the label itself that is particularly notable. Ferment temperatures, maceration level, proportions of whole bunches, everything. Eight different sets of data, all represented via some clever graphical waves. What makes it even more clever is that, unless you look very closely, you'd never realise that the graphics are actually data representations. In fact you'd probably just pick it as a bunch of flowing coloured waves unless you had a closer look. Suffice to say it's glorious, cutting edge stuff, particularly for a wine geek like me. I love it.

The grape sourcing of the wine too is equally classy. Grapes all come from the Geelong GI, off the biodynamically farmed Lethbridge home vineyard (planted in 1996) and the Rebenburg vineyard at Mt Duneed (planted in 1970). What's of further interest though - and here is where things get truly offbeat - is the blend itself. Shiraz is the main component, followed by Grenache, Sangiovese and a little Zinfandel. It's a very unusual blend for Geelong and looks it too. It's clearly well thought out (have a squizz here), but, for mine, I think it's not a particularly cohesive one, with the Shiraz having some runs on the board, but the rest looking like bit players (such as cool climate Grenache, which so very rarely works). Hey, it's their first vintage though so slack should be cut.

But back to the story. The winemaking here really deserves a big mention - it's as happily 'old school revivalist' as possible. Pigeage, no temperature control, plenty of stems, everything. Again it screams of attentive winemaking, of an unending desire to make great wine and a 'who cares about the risks' philosophy. It's admirable stuff. No, it's more than that, it's the sort of winemaking style that I'd chose. High five David Fesq and co.

Now, to the wine. It's a provocative thing that's for sure. It smells of candied, sherbery cherry fruit, the carbonic maceration from plenty of whole berry action giving a wildly juicy, pink musk and strawberry sweetness that fairly jumps out of the glass. If anything it's almost too sweet, too pink Lifesaver candied and a little frivolous for me personally but it certainly makes for a very pretty wine. The whiff of stemmy seriousness also suggests that with more bottle time it should settle down with a little bottle time.

From here the palate is a darker affair. It carries a thicker, cherry fruit and veal savouriness and some twiggy bitterness, making for a clever and nicely layered palate of some intrigue. In fact the only downer is that it lacks persistance, the finish a little skinny, skittish and almost young-vine lean. I hate to hang out my prejudices, but I'm laying that at the feet of the Grenache and Sangiovese in particular, both of which really need to come from old vines in the right spot to work (in my opinion).

Still, that's but a wobble for this project. A wobble that will no doubt be tamed with an extra vintage or two under the belt. Regardless, like the special white wax (which has to be specially imported) that the bottles are sealed with, this is a particularly individual wine from one seriously exciting project...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

McLaren Vale: Highlights from the new generation

McLaren Vale: Highlights from the new generation
If I was in the mood for cliches, this article could be called 'Mclaren Vale: The next vintage' or 'McLaren Vale's new crop' or such. But I'm ditching all of that today, for I simply want to talk about a few McLaren Vale makers crafting good wines. Most importantly, these are three producers that are largely winemakers, not vignerons, producing wines from trusted grower fruit and not afraid of travelling all over the countryside to find it.

Dave 'Vinteloper' Bowley
Looking every one of his seven feet in this photo
More than that though, these are three winemakers that like to drink, who realise that to make great wines you've got to have tasted great wines. That might sound like a given, but it constantly surprises me how narrowly many winemakers drink, with a liquid diet that often rarely strays beyond Coopers (if you're in South Australia at least) and some old favourites (or, worst still, just their own wines). The end result is winemakers who make the same old wines in the same old styles without even a whisper of innovation.

Want an example? One well known winemaker said to me, and I quote, 'some of those organic wines are alright, but there aren't many good ones'. Said winemaker also wore shiny leather pants to a function (so probably can't be trusted). Regardless, it's almost a constant that great winemakers drink great wines, and I'm never surprise to spot some famous empty bottles on his/her winery shelves (or help empty the bottles with the winemakers themselves).

Anyway, back to the Vale and these three new(ish) producers, all of whom present a whole new interesting face to McLaren Vale.

First up is a deep thinking, considered winemaker (and noted basketballer) whom has only really been making wines under his own label since 2009, even though he's been a winemaker for a decade. Many of those years however were actually spent on the other side of the fence - working in compliance with Wine Australia, a job that he credits with making him a more considered - and ultimately artisanal - winemaker.

That man is David Bowley and his label is called Vinteloper wines.

The premise behind Vinteloper is a simple one - find good grapes, make good wine. What sets the operation apart is that Dave is part of the new vanguard that insists upon making minimal interventionist wines (crafted basically in his back shed) and it was Dave's most 'natural' wine that effectively made his reputation.

Said wine was the 2010 Vinteloper 'Odeon', a Watervale Riesling that was, quite by accident, produced with wild yeasts; spent 2 months in oak, 2 months on less; made without temperature control and with only a spoonful of sulphur added. It is, in Clare Rizza terms, a delightfully textural, alive and complex wine that represents quite an intriguing departure from the norm.

The Alpha Box & Dice 'Laboratory'
Sadly the Odeon is now sold out (and the '11 is a few months off yet) but another new release from the big man to tickle my fancy is the 2010 Vinteloper 'Adelo', which is yet another thoroughly unconventional wine in the best possible fashion. Adelo is a blend of McLaren Vale Touriga, McLaren Vale Shiraz and Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir, all coupled together in the perfect example of what can be done with some clever winemaking. It's looking a little tight at present, with the oak needing some time to integrate, but what I like most about is how savoury and persistant it is, a dry, rich and full - yet not extractive - style, with the welcome savouriness of Touriga driving the party. I like it muchly, reflecting as it does the attraction of Dave's winemaking Modus operandi.

Speaking of quirky blends though, another producer with a passion for the unusual cuvee is Justin Lane, a fast talking and intuitive winemaker whom has perhaps the most acute appreciation for the fine wines of the world than anyone.

Justin's approach, exhibited under his 'Alpha Box & Dice' label, is to make interesting blends (for they're almost ubiquitously blends, the man can't seem to help himself) with no shortage of character. His wines mirror the man himself, a reflection of a restless man and a restless drinker, the ultimate wine tinkerer. In that fashion his blends don't always work (and he's often relying on quite young vine material, so the definition is not always spot on) but the wins are big ones (such as this one)

Of these, I tasted out of barrel some brilliant '10 Barbera that even I thought had some Piedmont leanings, with Justin letting slip that he has Mascarello in mind when crafting this. From the current releases (and there's plenty of them, with each wine represented by a letter of the alphabet) I like the impressive 2009 Alpha Box & Dice 'A' Apostle Shiraz Durif, which has a richness and tannins that felt much more European in it's style, or the plain joyful 2010 Alpha Box & Dice 'D' Dead Winemakers Dolcetto.

Justin Mcnamee - lunch break
(Source: Samuel's Gorge website)
There are less successful wines of course, including the 'Golden Mullet Fury' Muscadet which doesn't quite nail the rich, slightly phenolic Loire style, yet you can still see the intention, taste the attention. It's a work in progress no doubt, redeemed just by how interesting it is, indicative again of a motivated and skillful winemaker on the up.

On a more conventional note, the final maker in this little McLaren Vale triumvirate makes perhaps the most traditional styles (in a way). I'm talking now about Samuel's Gorge, led by the wild haired, wonderfully eccentric Justin Mcnamee (just have a read of my first experience with the man himself here). Again, like all of these gents, Justin and his crew drink widely (and proudly so, every time I've been in there they are hungover and spouting stories of great wines) and have a very fair understanding of what good vino tastes like.

Like the other Justin, Justin Mcnamee's method is one of experimentation, with his cluttered winery full of different barrel sizes/formats and a big wooden fermenter sitting as a centerpiece. The desire for Justin again is for complexity, for a more rich expression of some McLaren Vale styles, with the reds given extended maceration, made with natural yeasts and left to their own devices to build more wildness and character.

Whilst it is the reds then that underpin Samuel's Gorge (Shiraz, Grenache and Tempranillo), it is the whites where the skill is really on show. Justin chooses cool Tasmania for his white grapes, shipping them back across the water as juice (though for how much longer he'll venture to Tassie is up for contention) and finishing the wines off in the Vale. Of particular note amongst these Tasmanian interlopers is the stunning 2010 Samuel's Gorge Tamar Valley Gewurtztraminer, sourced from some seriously old vines on the Western side of the Tamar Valley (that belong to the Pipers Brook operation and were recently pulled out). It's a stunningly floral, evocatively fragrant wine with weight, acidity and proper phenolics, making a lovely counterpoint to the rest of the rather full and rich McLaren Vale red range. I'm a massive fan of this (and it's Relbia Riesling brother).

Samuel's Gorge Gewurtztraminer
Bloody delicious
Perhaps even more intriguing though is the new, unreleased 2010 Samuel's Gorge Mourvedre/Mataro (whatever you want to call it) which I also tried from barrel. Suffice to say I was excited. It was exciting, with the component to come from the Gillet barrel being particularly stunning, showing everything you'd want in a Australian Mataro - meaty, minerally, densely savoury dark fruited red fruit character with so much latent power, tannins and depth, yet without any excesses of sweetness or edifice. Deep and savoury Mataro to the max.

There remains only one challenge with the wines of these three producers: Finding them. Cellar door/mailing list/online seems to be the key, for none of them have widespread distribution and volumes are low.

If you can deal with this however, and you're after wines with character, made by characters, then I can't recommend these wines enough - they're wines that I personally would want to buy and drink.

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++

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A small flock of decent Kiwi's

A small flock of decent Kiwi's

Firstly, please forgive the flock pun. It's poor, I know, but my Codral Cold & Flu tablet addled mind can't muster up a more clever title right now (though it is growing on me).

These were all tasted at a recent mini Kiwi wine-fest. Of note is just how good that St Clair Reserve Sauv Blanc is. If you're going to buy Marlborough Sauv you'd be hard pressed to find a better example, though you've got be a fan of the nettles + passionfruit, 'I love Marlborough Sauv' style (which I'm not actually, but there's no denying the quality of this).

St Clair Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Marlborough, NZ)
Lots of latent power here. Intense, almost overtly grassy nose in true varietal/regional form. Dry, super powered, tangy palate. Seriously intense, long and quite weighty palate of length and form. Absolute top shelf Sauv. 18.5/94

St Clair Pioneer Block 9 'Doctors' Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
Now this I like. Marlborough Pinot to a tee. Bright, juicy, open and lovely spicy/cherry nose in an almost cuddly style, though the late acid hit brings everything back to reality. Lovely fleshy, cherry Pinot style with proper form behind it. Nice nice. 18.3/93

Vavasour Awatere Pinot Noir 2009 (Marlborough, NZ)
Not quite on the St Clair level, this looked a little subdued and sullen, even if it was edged with candied and rather ripe stewed fruit. Palate is again juicy, if just a little caramalised. In the wash though it's actually a rather nice, lighter style drink that was just overshadowed by the St Clair. Good. 17.3/90

Alpha Domus Aviator 2007 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
The only odd wine out in this lineup. Looked very raw, far too young and edged with hard oak tannins. It may well integrate but looked very brutal and unsubtle in this context. 15.8/87+

Bridge Pa Louis Syrah 2007 (Hawkes Bay, NZ)
I've had this wine numerous times now and have simply decided that the reason why I don't like it is a stylistic disagreement. To be even more honest I just don't like the way it smells. There's just this herbal, peppery meaty sweatiness to the nose that I can't quite get past. Digging underneath the nose though and this is clearly a wine of some power and structure (finishing seriously firm to boot) with a smattering of gold medals to prove just how good it might look in certain contexts. In the end I'm just sticking to a 'goodish' rating as i think there might be merit in there. Though, hold on, it does have a slightly bitter finish.... 16.4/88

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

La Vendetta Barbera Nebbiolo 2007

La Vendetta Langhe Barbera Nebbiolo 2007 (Piedmont, Italy)
13.5%, Screwcap, $19
Source: Sample

I opened this up alongside a brace of five wines under $25 and I think this was one of the wines I'd most like to drink. Looked a bit pointy on the first day, but 24 hours in the bottle did it wonders. Smart packaging too.

It's typically light in colour, with a nose of red cherry, a waft of volatility and some spicy cherry, overlaid with some meaty earthiness. It's a pretty simple, black fruited, earthen and straight forward nose in truth. But the attraction here lies not on the nose but on the palate. Or, more specifically, the proper 'Piedmont action' grainy tannins, which turn the shape of it from a sort of lightly caramelised and rustic meaty thing into something properly quaffable.

Good drinking, with the tannins a real winner. Score doesn't quite do the drinkability justice perhaps, but that's largely due to the fact that it's still an intrinsically simple wine. Still, plenty to like here. 16.3/87

Monday, 20 July 2009

Cullen 07 releases

Tasted at the ever enchanting Ultimo Wine Centre just a few days ago, this lineup yet again reminded how much the Cullen wines have evolved. No sign of simple fruit flavours in this collection, instead, these are complex, thought provoking, even challenging wines. What I like the most, however, comes in the tannin structure of the reds. The Diana Madeline below has a tannin intensity that is largely missing in most Australian reds, tannins that seem mature, even old world in their authenticity.

It's great to see.

Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2007
The challenging wine. Golden Circle tinned pineapples play a surprisingly dominant part here, particularly on the nose. Behind this lays slightly raw, hay and pear barrel characters. The nose then is somewhat of a jumble, even if it posesses all the elements for possible future integration. The sweet and sour palate is similarly dry and almost jarring, with citrussy acidity and length in abundance, all sitting with unquestioning intensity, yet making for a wine that is nowhere near drinkable or even particularly enjoyable.

This wine then is a conundrum. It's seriously serious and all that, but it's also rather hard to love right now. The score then is a nod to the future, but also a reflection of awkwardness. 17.1

Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Merlot 2007
Classic nose. Pencil shavings, dill, cedar and red fruit in a really fragrant and nearly perfect style. Great. Very light and pretty for Wilyabrup. The palate though is brutally uncompromising, with force-your-mouth-together tannins that are amazing, yet at the same time so unequivocal that this is simply not for drinking right now. 20 year wine. Buy some and forget about it, or decant for days. I'm giving it a conservative score, based largely on the impressive shell behind the wine. Take note of the all important plus signs at the end. 18.5++

Cullen Mangan 2007
Easily the best Mangan ever and so approachable and drinkable when compared to the two wines above. The nose seems quite Francish in its red fruit fragrance (though there is no Cab Franc here, only Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot) backed by red meat and some aromatic, slightly herbal nuances. The real beauty though is on the medium bodied palate. All the flavours, the layers, seem perfectly delineated, like a classic blend should be. It feels light and elegant, opulent, but with surprise tannins, just to keep it all in shape. It is, in short, a beautiful wine with so very much to like. 18.6

Saturday, 30 May 2009

3 Rhone gooduns

These were tasted at one of Sydney's finest imported wine meccas, the Ultimo Wine Centre. If you are ever in Sydney town, don't miss out on the Saturday tastings - always high quality interesting wines to taste, with the only challenge to walk out of there with your credit card unscathed.

Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2007
Really quite a surprise. I've got limited experience with white Southern Rhones, but this was such a different wine to the norm - so crisp, dry and reserved. On the nose it has beeswax, honey and a whiff of lanolin & white flowers. Its very tight and unusually fragrant for a wine style that is built more on palate textures & weight than aromatics.

The palate is similarly reserved & dry, with none of the glycerol heavy weight of typical Southern Rhone whites. Indeed, this had me thinking of Chenin Blanc with its crisply honeyed flavours, the finish crisp, even if the acidity is still quite low.

Quite delicious stuff. 17.2+

Chateau Mont Redon Cotes du Rhone 2006
Bargain. Grab a bottle if you can, because for under $25 (and I've seen it in Vintage Cellars in Australia at this price) its an absolutely delicious snapshot of what makes Cotes Du Rhone great. Lovely, musky rich fruit nose, it smells sweet and modern, but also recognisably Rhonish, with is grilled meats & spice & savoury rich fruited palate. Its hardly deep and sophisticated but its so drinkable and authentic. Winner. 17.0

Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape 2006
Special wine. It takes a while to unfurl, but when it does, this has the elusive x factor 'wowness'. The nose has pepper, licorice and typical CdP hot stones, but it all sits sub surface, hinting at the cellaring future on offer here. The palate is succulent and ripe, but it all tightens up toward the end with some almost Italianate long long tannins.

Ultimately this is a classically impressive old world red, with its savoury nuances and excellent tannin structure that will only improve with cellaring time. Superb. 18.7

Saturday, 1 November 2008

WINE EXPERIMENT: Gaja Sito Moresco 2006 - Tasted over a week

Gaja Sito Moresco 2006 (Langhe, Italy)
Cork, $36 (375ml)

Like all wine geeks, I like the odd wine experiment. Unusual blends, bizarre wine and food matches or sticking wines in the cellar to see if something interesting will happen - these are all the activities of the wine obsessed. This experience didn't start off as a wine experiment, but after Day 2 it seemed only natural. On day 1 this wine was so closed down that I just naturally stuck it back in the decanter, waiting for something to happen. A day turned into 7, with some interesting, if challenging (for me) results.

My experience with Nebbiolo and blends is somewhat limited - I have been lucky to have scored an invite to a handful of Nebbiolo mega tastings over the years and confess a love for this capricious variety. But my exposure then has been limited to a couple of icons, all with age on them (Vietti, Roberto Voerzio, La Spinetta) and the best that Australia has to offer (Arrivo, Protero, Pizzini, Bowe Lees, Luke Lambert etc). However there remains a whole swathe of Barolos & Barbarescos that are uncharted waters. Hence the reason for trying this.

The wine itself is a blend of 35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, built in a modern style, crafted by the master Angelo Gaja, with the aim perhaps to make a wine that is far more approachable wine in its youth than the typical straight Neb (at an approachable price to boot). Which this wine definitely isn't.

The colour this was a mid red, darkened thanks to the Merlot and Cab Sauv components. The colour didn't move over the week.
On Day 1: The nose has obvious pencil shavings, leather & old oak, with hidden depths of ripe, meaty, slightly stewed fruit laying below the surface - Its largely closed for business.

On the palate it starts very gently with a sensation of lightness that always reminds me of Bordeaux. It then builds and builds and builds in structure finishing in dry, lip coating classic tannins. Its dry, cedary and all structure, no fruit to speak of, but potential plus. Back in the decanter it goes.

Day 2 and the nose is showing some volatility to match the sawdust & leather, the palate is softer, but with still just structure to speak of. No fruit. Softer tannins. Starting to question whether this might be a bad bottle. Quite undrinkable today.

Day 3 and its more open on the nose - there is even the tiniest hint of fruit! Preserved cherries, leather, sawdust. The palate is softer and the tannins integrated. Still no fruit, but with a t bone, this would probably drink ok. Still very dry and very hard work.

Day 4: The nose is more volatile today, more cedar even a hint of formic. Old wood nose, but more integrated than previous days - its getting looser and more oxidised. The palate again is quite drinkable, no fruit, but quite a nice nuttiness that feels oak derived, but is surprisingly not intrusive. I don't mind it today and with red meat it could work. It does feel a little oak driven however - as if oak tannins & flavours are whats holding it together.

Day 5: There is some oxidation showing on the nose now, The nose is becoming sweaty, gamey and I'd even say that there is some oxidised fruit. The palate is similarly tiring, its now meaty, and definitely held together by oak, the acidity is rearing up on the palate. It no longer a pleasant drink. The end nears.....

Day 6: Oxidised... fruit! Its distinctly oxidised red fruit on the nose today, on a weak, oxidised palate. Done. Largely undrinkable but not fetid.

Day 7: Gone.

Conclusions: I really struggled with this wine. I struggled to find any meat on them there bones and further struggled to resolve this with my own wine experiences. It lacked the beautiful tannins of the Piedmont's finest Nebbiolos or the interest of the Australian examples. It similarly lacked the flesh and beauty of the finest Tuscan blends. In the end I just found it a most challenging wine to drink and enjoy at any stage of the week I spent with this wine.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Houghton's New Bandits

Firstly, kudos to Houghton for the packaging - the labels, the polished screwcap, the vertical arrows on the capsule, the whole lot looks fun. A graphic artist went nuts with these labels and the result is rather good work. The blends are switched on too.

Houghton 'The Bandit' Sauvignon Blanc Pinot Gris 2008 (Western Australia) Screwcap, Approx $19

Green and very bright, the green bottle only highlights the brightness. The nose is all Savvy - its herbaceous, pungent and slightly volatile, but with a musky passionfruit edge, the Pinot Gris component largely hidden behind youthful Sav. The palate is soft, very young, with green tart acidity sticking out on the back end, the fruit is lemon citrus, with some pawpaw fruit. The palate is fleshy but dry (and still raw in its youth), unashamedly one dimensional and grapey, with again the only input from the Pinot Gris likely to be some green apple richness.

Pristine freshness and simple fruit, its quite an enjoyable drink for the upcoming summer. Well done Houghton. 16.9

Houghton 'The Bandit' Shiraz Tempranillo 2007 (Western Australia) Screwcap, $19ish

Shiraz Tempranillo - France vs Shiraz, a Mediterranean coupling that's appearing more frequently in recent years, but still there is little precedent (Though Julian Castagna swears that his Mediterranean Sangiovese Shiraz is his best blend). There will be struggling with the pronunciation of Tempranillo though. I can envisage people walking into a bottle shop and saying 'Houghton Bandit red thanks'.

Anyway, this is a bright purple colour, tending mulberry. On the nose its raisins, vanilla oak, raspberries and wet bricks. Its a simple, slightly volatile & very youthful nose and suggests sweet berry fruit, but there is enough deeper interest to warrant a closer inspection. On the palate it's way too young, but surprisingly full in its structure, with grainy tannins closing the package off. There is a little of the dried meat character of Tempranillo in there, but otherwise its Shiraz that creates all the interest here, giving the sweet berry generosity. The finish is a little hard, with oak tannins that linger long after the wine is gone.

I'm not taken by the blend, but I like the cutting edge inventiveness. This wine needs some time in the bottle to come together, but even then it may be just a little awkward. 16+