Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Poll Results

When the first votes came in, I got really confused, but then a clear picture emerged: you are moving to lighter style wines. The big winner was Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir and Champagne also doing well. No wonder prices of the small volumes of Burgundy wines are reaching stratospheric heights.

Riesling quality is improving a lot, but you are still not convinced. In fact, you have turned of Riesling more than of any other variety.

Amongst the fuller bodied wines, Grenache has gained, and the losers were Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Who would have thought?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir

Those of you who read my blog regularly, may remember that I am a bit skeptical of Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir, as I find those wines often fruity and not very charming. And you may also know I am even more skeptical of Jimmy Watson Trophy winners. Nevertheless, when the 2012 Yabby Lake Block 1 Pinot Noir won the Jimmy Watson Trophy as the first Pinot Noir, I decided to put a couple of bottles in my cellar. 

It was now time to taste one. Yabby Lake makes a number of single vineyard Pinot Noirs, but it can be quite confusing. Those with good eyesight might be able to decipher the back label. It shows the different blocks of the vineyard. In the upper left is block 1, and this particular wine comes from the light shaded area, which is block 1.4. 3836 bottles were made from there. 

The colour of the wine is still purple and very clear. The wine is of medium weight. I taste black cherry and forest berries, as well as some licorice on the palate. The wine is very polished and long, with some smart acidity going along with the fruit. The mouthfeel is on the bigger side for Pinot Noir, but on the smaller side for Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir. The tannins are quite silky and the finish expands in the mouth, something rarely found in Australia. This is in fact a brilliant wine.

Tom Carson, the winemaker, recommends cellaring for 8-12 years, and I have no doubt this wine will go that distance.

Score: 96/+++ 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Turkey Flat Subregional Wines

The wines I am discussing today have never been released commercially. However, they are a good test to what extent the subregional differences I described in my book 'Barossa Shiraz' do in fact exist.

There is a theory which says that the terroir influence increases as the wines age and that the winemaker influence diminishes. Now these wines are all made by the same team and in the same way. They are from the very good 2009 vintage. All three wines show the typical concentrated Barossa Shiraz fruit and give the taster a full mouthfeel. 

The 2009 Turkey Flat Bethany Shiraz delivers ripe plum fruit, which I would expect from this area. The core of the wine is quite sweet and a little plump. This is the least appealing of the three wines (88 points).

The 2009 Turkey Flat Stonewell Shiraz comes from this transition area between the Central Valley and Marananga. This wine is still quite lively. It has more acidity than the others and the best balance. The fruit is red plum, and the wine is more delicate than the next one (92 points).

The 2009 Turkey Flat Ebenezer Shiraz expresses the typical features of the Northern Barossa. This is the biggest of the three wines. Apart from the dark fruit, there are meaty flavours and appealing dark chocolate on the palate. The wine is quite smooth and longer on the palate than the other two. But it is not as lively as the Stonewell (92 points).

Overall, the subregional characteristics are there, in particular in wines 1 and 3.  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Holyman Pinot Noir

Tasmania as a region has the most marginal climate for grape growing in Australia. Vintage variations are significant. What's more, conditions vary significantly between Tasmania's subregions. As a result, it is very difficult to identify great producers over a longer timeline. This is just an introduction to say that not every Holyman Pinot Noir might be great, but this 2012 Holyman Pinot Noir certainly is.

This wine is very fragrant on the nose, with beautiful perfume. On the palate, black cherry and sour cherry deliver a great drive down the palate. The fruit has medium intensity, and the dry powdery tannins lead to a firm finish. This is a fruit dominant Pinot Noir, but it is not fruity, rather more mineral. The acidity and tannins create an excellent balance.

Source: 95/++

Thursday, January 11, 2018

New Poll

In this poll, I would like to find out about my readers' changing drinking habits. It is very simple to answer. Multiple answers are allowed, and it is anonymous, as usual.

PLEASE PARTICIPATE, YOU WILL BE DONE IN A MINUTE

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Agathist Alchemy Grenache

The Barossa region has the longest history of wineries in Australia, but there are also many new and exciting developments such as Ruggabellus, Sami-Odi, Head, and others. A couple of ex Torbreck winemakers have also ventured out on their own: David Powell, of course, and then there is Chris Isbel, the long time Torbreck winemaker. Agathist is Greek and means all things move towards the greater good. Let's test this with his 2013 Agathist Alchemy Grenache.

This wine is made from grapes of the Seppeltsfield subregion, where many old Grenache vineyards flourish, and are used in the Seppeltsfield port wines.

Lets start with the positives. There was generous fruit in this wine, and the tannins are soft and smooth. However, this is overshadowed by the rapid ageing of this wine. Clearly, the grapes have been picked quite late. The wine has been made with minimal intervention, and in this case, this has lead to a mouthfeel of overripeness. Chris Isbel points out that this so called 'First Wine' is for early drinking, but I am surprised that it has developed so much by year four. This wine has not moved to 'good'. It is clearly past its best drinking window. If you have this wine in your cellar, you must drink it inow.

Score: 82/--

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Spinifex Moculta Eden Valley Shiraz

The Moculta Shiraz is an unusual wine for Spinifex. Initially, Peter Schell never wanted to fashion a 100% Shiraz, but preferred blending wines. However, this is now the third different pure Shiraz wine for him. What is more, it even specifies the vineyard area. Normally, Peter Schell is very coy about his sources. I assume the fruit comes from the highly regarded Fechner vineyard, which also supplies many other well known labels.

The way the first 2010 Spinifex Moculta Shiraz came about, was that Peter Schell noticed different characteristics in this fruit and decided to bottle this separately, even though the fruit profile did not fit his usual interest in fresh and lively characteristics. This one has more of a Penfolds profile of a denser wine with coarser tannins. According to Schell:”it is what it is.” Volume is small.

Yesterday, I opened the only bottle I have of this. The wine is indeed quite weighty, with dark fruit flavours and some meat and charcoal. The wine was matured for three years in large new oak barrels, and the oak complements the still dominant fruit well. This is a big, ripe wine, but still lively. In fact, it will live easily for another 10 years.

While the first vintage was not planned, Spinifex has continued to produce this wine.

Score: 94/++

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What Did We Drink This Christmas?

In some years, I splash out on Christmas drinks. This year, we had good quality wine, but nothing outrageous pricewise. The 2016 Juniper Estate Tempranillo went well with some ham. The cherry flavours were fresh and very lively, although there is not much depth to this wine.

The highlights on Christmas Day were two wines from the not very special 2007 vintage. The 2007 Kreglinger (formerly Pipers Brook) Vintage Sparkling was a perfect complement to the prawns with good depth and yeasty notes matching the effervescence of this Sparkling. This is a top quality Sparkling, matching high quality Champagne. But the real highlight was a 2007 Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon. If I am not mistaken, this is the most highly decorated wine in Australia. Not that I am a big advocate for wine shows and medals as a guide for quality. The wine was still fresh, but started to develop hazelnut and honey notes which went perfectly with the white fish and rich salad.

On Boxing Day, it was time for more red wine. The choices were a 2009 Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz from the Hunter Valley and a special 2004 Henschke Tappa Pass Shiraz from Magnum. The former started to display beautiful velvety tannins, and the latter the typical Henschke Shiraz profile of mulberry and aniseed. 

Now, more importantly, what did you drink for Christmas? I have readers from all over the world. Don't be shy. What did you enjoy, what was disappointing? I want you all to write in.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Wynns Black Label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon

The strip of Terra Rossa soil in Coonawarra was the first soil type which became famous for wine production in Australia. This red clay, combined with warm weather, produces a quite distinctive flavour profile with very intense fruit characteristics. It was noticed, as this stood in stark contrast to the more mineral and structural wines from France. In the last couple of decades, this has become less of a unique feature. French wines  bulked up, and the Parker phenomenon lead to very concentrated wines in other parts of Australia and the world.

Looking at a typical Coonawarra wine today, it is less appealing to me. Yes, the fruit intensity is a plus, but the wines are often not very complex, and the finish can be earthy and broad.

Against this background, the 2015 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon is an attractive wine. The wine from this warm vintage is bright and juicy, with concentrated red and blackcurrant fruit. It is a bit full-on on the front palate, but there is sufficient acidity to balance the big fruit. The tannins are firm. Overall, this wine has a well balanced structure. This wine is quite an achievement for a very large production volume.

Is this the best Black Label ever? It would come close, which is fortuitous, given it celebrated the 60th vintage. I recommend to put the wine down for at least five years. The wine will benefit from mellowing of the fruit and tannins.

Score: 93-94/+  

Monday, December 18, 2017

Voyager Estate Tom Price Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2004 Voyager Estate Tom Price Cabernet Sauvignon is a fairly rare wine. It comes from the best barrels of the year and is named after Thomas Price. He was a partner of Peter Wright and Lang Hancock and helped establish the famous Hamersley Iron Company in the Pilbara. The Wright family is of course the owner of Voyager Estate.

The front label is peculiar, as it is probably the only one in the world which talks exclusively about iron ore. But in any case, what is in the bottle?

The wine is still bright, showing very concentrated fruit, tasting of redcurrant, blueberry and cassis. It delivers quite a thick mouthfeel upfront, but fresh acidity balances the fruit well. The wine has been matured in French oak, 50% new, for two years, but the oak is well matched by the fruit. However, there is a hint of a hole on the mid-palate, often seen in Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins have softened, the structure still stands firm. I found the finish arriving a bit suddenly.

This is a typical case often found with best barrel selection. Best barrel inevitably means most concentrated fruit. This comes at the expense of nuance and often elegance. This wine is not too powerful and is reasonably elegant, but it does lack finesse. This wine will appeal to many consumers, but did not quite hit the high notes for me.

Score: 93/+ 

Friday, December 15, 2017

2015 Vintage - Which Reds To Buy?

2015 has been a great vintage for red wine in many parts of the world. Where can you find the absolute outstanding wines? Following, in very brief form, are my recommendations.

In Australia, Pinot Noir from Victoria, pretty much all regions, is outstanding. Tasmania is good, too. The Barossa had a good vintage for Shiraz, quite warm. Depending on your preferred style, you need to focus on producers who make concentrated and ripe wines or those who prefer elegance and freshness. The differences are likely to be significant this year.

Europe had great results in 2015 and would be my go to continent. The Burgundy wines are the best of the decade so far. Cooler sites from higher elevation are best in this warm year. I would opt for Rhone over Bordeaux for sheer drinkability, in particular Chateauneuf-du-Pape with its ripe Grenache blends.

In Italy, wines from Tuscany are outstanding. On the Iberian peninsula,  I would opt for Portuguese wines from the Douro Valley over Spain - a watershed year.

There it is, in a nutshell.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wilson Riesling


From the most acclaimed Riesling region in Australia, the Polish Hill subregion of the Clare Valley, comes this 2017 Wilson DJW Riesling. This terrific value wine has the typical profile of the area; dry, zesty, and with lime flavours. The special feature of this wine is its strong minerality. The wine comes from a steep vineyard at high elevation. It has a refreshing acidity on the finish. It does not have quite as much drive or is as linear as the Grosset, but this is a mighty fine wine for the hot summer days at less than half the price. 

Score: 92/+++