Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SHAW VINEYARD ESTATE ISABELLA RIESLING 2009

- Canberra District
- $28
- Screwcap
- 11.0%alc

Said to be made in a 'typical Germanic style', the handpicked Isabella (which was made with the assistance of Canberra riesling maestro Ken Helm) is the reserve level riesling of up and coming Canberra District producer Shaw Vineyard Estate.

Very expressive and clearly varietal, the 2009 Isabella's floral aroma of sweetened limes, apple blossom, musky spice and wet stone leap out the glass with pleasing intensity and perfume. It's quite a concentrated, juicy and purposely sweet-edged riesling, with clear citrus and white flower notes outlined by candied aspects and ample structure. There's a more than obvious influence of residual sugar, but it's neatly entwined with brisk, austere acids which help drive the wine towards a generously long, sweet and sour finish.

ü The 2009 Isabella is definitely Germanic in approach, but unlike some other Australian interpretations of the style it contains the even ripeness, length and essential acidity to pull it off. It's another welcome addition to Australia's riesling landscape. Drink to 2016.
90 points


Monday, December 28, 2009

WYNNS CABERNET SHIRAZ MERLOT 2007

- Coonawarra, SA
- $10-$21
- Screwcap
- 14.0%alc

Admittedly, the CSM has never been my favourite piece of the Wynns puzzle. This belief was only enforced by a vertical tasting I took part in at the winery in July 2007 (covering vintages 2002-2005). Solid but not spectacular value is how I'd sum up the CSM, which contrasts with my opinion of Wynns' other red wines.

Rather leafy/herbal on the nose, its plum, berry and licorice aromas are aided by spicy cedar oak and a perfectly valid note of eucalyptus leaf. Medium in body, the palate reveals a typically regional mix of blackcurrant and cedar flavours accentuated by more savoury, earthy undertones and a firming dryness, but it thins out a fraction throughout the mid-back palate, without the true length of fruit required for a higher score.

O Attractively regional at this price, yet still young and brash; Wynns' 2007 CSM should settle down and filll out nicely with a little more cellaring. Drink 2012-2015.
88 points


WINE BY BRAD ROSE 2009

- Margaret River, WA
- $17
- Screwcap
- 13.2%alc

People who know me are well aware of my generally negative views towards Australian rose, especially that made from cabernet. However, it is summer, and this one comes from my favourite cabernet region...

A visually appealling translucent mid-red colour, Wine by Brad's 2009 Rose presents a typically summer-suited fragrance of candied red cherries, creamed strawberries, lemons and kiwi fruit. Light-medium bodied, its smooth, almost creamy palate reveals a more restrained, gentle red berry fruit profile glossed over by soft acids, before finishing in a clean, moderately dry fashion with a mere hint of the candied aspects which falter so many of its contemporaries.

O Rose drinkers will certainly appreciate this more than me, as its gentle restraint and smooth balance has it sitting among the more enjoyable renditions of the style I've had lately. To maximise its pleasing texture, don't drink it straight out the fridge. Drink to 2010.
87 points


Sunday, December 27, 2009

CHATEAU REYNELLA 16 Y.O. RARE OLD TAWNY

- McLaren Vale, SA
- $10
- Cork (Capsule)
- 19.5%alc

Despite the controversy surrounding Chateau Reynella's U.S. parent company, no one could doubt the present day wine quality of this historic brand. The old-vine grenache, cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and fortified wines of Chateau Reynella often fly under the radar, but they easily rate with McLaren Vale's finest.

Although not terribly deep in colour this affordable Tawny is a definite brown, unravelling to intensely lifted, heady scents of raisins, orange rind, gentle spice and smoky oak, all of which is overcome by a lingering whiff of strong spirit. There's a lack of penetrative length or depth to its more forward, lighter Tawny-style palate, whose juicy, raisined flavours of Christmas pudding and scorched butterscotch end with a spirity sharpness and sour edges.

ü Regardless of its $10 asking price, I did expect more from this label. It's a lovable cheap Port and not much more than that, which makes it hard to score for me, as even the cheap stuff flows down my palate with discerning ease. Drink now.
87 points

CHATEAU REYNELLA: OUTSTANDING WINE BUT I MUST WHINE



These ugly images, taken on Christmas day, are from what was once a historic vineyard site adjacent the Hardys winery, on the corner of Reynell and Panalatinga Roads at Reynella. Much was written and spoken of when Constellation sold the land to Pioneer Homes earlier this year, and here's the present day picture. You can just see the manicured hedge and entrance signs to Hardys headquarters in the left of the top image. Not that long ago it was nothing but rare suburban vines (diseased from what I've been told by Hardys reps), soon it will be common suburban housing.

I grew up at Reynella, in fact, the house I lived in until I was 20 sat roughly 400 metres from this vineyard site.

South of this vineyard lies Panalatinga Creek (which is suspiciously drier and filled with more overgrown shrubs than what I remember), partnered by the Old Reynella walking trail, which stems from my old family home to the historic Old Reynella settlement in the west.

But directly south sits the monument of John Reynell's (early settler of Reynella) first home, marked by no more than four pine trees, two park benches and a plaque. The monument overlooks the now old vineyard site, providing what was an idyllic view across a historically significant piece of Reynella's heritage. Incidentally, a good section of the vineyard was replanted the same year I was born.

As rambunctious teenagers my friends and I would often congregate at John Reynell's monument. We were too young to drink at home, so we'd often take the a short afternoon stroll to this most placid and relaxing of environments. There, we would drink beer (usually West End Draught) and discuss the current events in our lives and our futures. It gave us somewhere to get away from the rigours of adolescent life. I can recall my first memorable food/alcohol match being discovered while overlooking the vineyard, it was my friend Casey's home brew Coopers Sparkling Ale paired with peanuts. Hardly earth shattering, but when you're 15 in Reynella the world of Wagyu and Lafite is a long way away.

To be honest, none of us even realised there was a vineyard in front of us, what it was there for, or its significance. None of it mattered. All that mattered was we had somewhere to go. And what a lovely place it was too.

Future generations of Reynella's children won't get the same privileges offered to us as kids. They can sit at Reynell's monument if they like, but I hope they enjoy the site of a back fence, just as I hope its residents enjoy the site of kids drinking behind their back fence.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

BROTHERS IN ARMS NO.6 SHIRAZ 2006

- Langhorne Creek, SA
- $15-$23
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

Brothers in Arms (est. 1998) is the wine brand of the Adams family, who have been growing grapes in Langhorne Creek since 1891 (including a cabernet sauvignon vineyard which is believed to be one of the oldest on the planet). The No.6 wines draw their name from the present Adams children; the sixth generation of this historic family business.

Warmly scented with a rather generous extract of seasoned, spicy oak overlying fruitcake, prune, dark plum and heady spirit aromas, this 2006 Shiraz reveals a softened, juicy and easily accessible palate whose length is drawn out by sweet oak and bright acids. Although adequately balanced, it's still heavily ripened and perhaps a bit old fashioned, finishing with a persisting meatiness, alcoholic warmth and a hint of salt.

X Unfortunately, the 2006 No.6 Shiraz clearly reflects the difficulties posed to Langhorne Creek growers recently (saline concerns, heat, drought etc.). Thanks to the Bremer River flooding earlier this year, followers of Langhorne Creek wine should be looking forward to 2010 releases with optimism. Drink to 2012.
86 points


A FATHER'S CHRISTMAS CURIO: ORLANDO ST HELGA RHINE RIESLING 1988

- Eden Valley, SA
- ?
- Cork
- 12.9%alc

I've long known my father possessed a bottle of the 1988 St Helga in his collection, but after a bit of digging on Christmas day, I managed to locate another four. "Carn dad, we gotta crack one now", I rather ambitiously stated while full of Christmas cheer.

Opening with an extremely weathered, soaking wet cork, its browning golden/bronze colour presents a nose which does show hints of honeyed toast/kerosene, but it's completely overawed by stronger whiffs of bland breakfast cereals and paint thinner, with wet hessian aromas also present. Distinctly rich on the palate but very oxidative, it pushes through with seriously funky, almost mould-like character. Thank heavens modern Australian rieslings are sealed with screwcap.

X I'll leave the last line here to my father, whom, when asked what he'll do with his other four bottles of 1988 St Helga said; "Well, I'll probably give it another 10 years, then see how it tastes then". Drink during the Atlanta Olympics.
N/A


A CORK TOO FAR: 1988 ST HELGA RIESLING


Here's a picture of the cork from the 1988 St Helga Riesling, which was a rather dubious black on top. Full credit must go to my dad though, for managing to remove it in one piece. Strangely, he seems to have had a lot of practice removing decrepit corks from bottles...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

OZ WINE TOONS


For reasons unknown to most, Santa's sleigh never made it past Murrumbateman this year




Merry Xmas to all and to all a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

HENSCHKE LOUIS SEMILLON 2008

- Eden Valley, SA
- $17-$24
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Alongside names like Peter Lehmann, St Hallett, Rockford and Burge Family Winemakers; Henschke is among a motivated bunch of Barossa region producers making serious inroads into the Hunter Valley's long held dominance of semillon. Henschke's Louis is made from the best parcels of fruit from the family's 50 year old semillon vineyard in the Eden Valley.

A little shy on the nose initially, the 2008 Louis opens to reveal a herbal presence of gooseberry and melon fruits with grilled nut overtones. Rather languid and rich yet fluid, its mineral infused palate announces clean and clear lemon citrus flavours, which evolve in a more savoury fashion with lingering notes of herb and a defining smoky aspect, before being punctuated beautifully by delightfully taut and regional, chalky acids.

ü+ Although it might not set the Tyrrells' or Thomas' of this world running in fear, Henschke's 2008 Louis is yet another wine worth sourcing out for anyone interested in discovering South Australian semillon. Fans of Eden Valley wine should appreciate its distinctive backbone, just as I did. Drink to 2015.
92 points


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

MORRIS LIQUEUR TOKAY

- Rutherglen, VIC
- $14-$21
- Screwcap
- 17.5%alc

For anyone looking for an entry point into the under-rated delights of Australia's rich and luscious fortified wines, they need look no further than the Morris Liqueur Tokay. At $15 it isn't just one of my perennial favourite Australian wines, it's also an absolute bargain. Every time I see it on a wine list, the little grandfather inside of me can't help but raise a suggestive smile.

A lush golden brown colour, this Non-Vintage Tokay opens to a fragrant nose of toffee, nuts and tea supported by overtones of fruitcake character. Luxuriantly smooth and sticky, with pleasing balance, its rich palate shows a myriad of bright, ripe tokay flavours with notes of honeyed sultana and toffee in the driver's seat. Of particular note is the fine finish; clean and generously long, with just a hint of spirity warmth which doesn't dominate.

ü+ Once all the sparkling shiraz has been polished off, there might not be a more appropriate way to wind down Christmas than a bottle of Morris Liqueur Tokay. Drink now.
92 points


Monday, December 21, 2009

KOOYONG MASSALE PINOT NOIR 2008

- Mornington Peninsula, VIC
- $22-$32
- Cork (Diam)
- 13.0%alc

In the past I haven't enjoyed Kooyong's Massale as much as others. For my tastes the early releases were a tad thin, dilute and overly reliant on sour acidity for length. Still, I've kept with the Massale, and I'm glad to announce the 2008 has handsomely repaid my faith in the label.

Powerfully lifted and fragrant, its heady, spicy aromas of clove and cinnamon are underpinned by equally showy notes of dark cherry/kirsch, sweet raspberries and fresh cedar oak. It's much fuller and significantly more sumptuous than previous Massales, with a silken, rather plushly stained palate of liqueur dark cherry and dry earth flavours extending towards a more sour edged yet savoury, ably spiced finish. A harmonious tapestry of brittle tannin and bright, sour acidity frames the wine, which should settle down into a smoother, more sensual pinot with short term cellaring.

ü+ A huge improvement for Massale in terms of texture, depth, balance and focus. A great Mornington pinot at a terrific price. Drink to 2013.
91 points


Thursday, December 17, 2009

JOSEPH NEBBIOLO 2007

 - McLaren Vale, SA
 - $65-$90
 - Cork
 - 13.5%alc

First produced in 2002, Joseph's Clarendon sourced nebbiolo has emerged as my favourite interpretation of an Australian Italianette. The inspirational Joe Grilli has already established a consistent nebbiolo style, which is all about perfume, complex character, sensuous texture and firm structure.

A lightly shaded brick red/garnet colour, Joseph's youthfully apparent yet ethereal 2007 Nebbiolo presents a vivid scent of spearmint laid across floral notes of dark cherry, red berries and game with a beautifully composed hint of spicy French cedar/vanilla oak. Surprisingly lush but equally silky and supple, its firming palate reveals a medium-bodied, sour edged expression of earthy red fruit flavours, driving with great penetration towards a long, tight, dry and savoury finish of growing intensity. It's framed by a very assertive, somewhat astringent extract of sandpaper-like tannins, which bond the wine with severe authority. 

üAlthough quite intense and tight fisted, this is still an elegant, complete nebbiolo with enough structure to age superbly. Anyone fortunate enough to possess any of Joseph's 2007 should give it the time and respect it deserves, allowing it to mature into a most majestic, layered and sensual Australian red of rare quality. Drink 2012-2019.
94 points


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

YALUMBA FDW[7c] CHARDONNAY 2008

 - Adelaide Hills, SA
 - $24-$31
 - Screwcap
 - 13.5%alc

Adelaide Hills chardonnay has apparently become the new darling of Australia's wine circuit, with numerous examples winning major awards in the past 6 months. One such representative is Yalumba's 2008 FDW[7c], which was voted South Australian Wine of the Year by a panel consisting of Andrew Jefford (UK wine writer), Peter Schell (winemaker - Spinifex), Tom Riley (winemaker - Penfolds), James Erskine (sommelier - Auge) and Louise Radman (Adelaide wine writer).

Opening to a very tight, refined and linear nose, its mineral infused lemon, grapefruit and white peach aromas are backed by a delicate underswell of hazelnut and yeast notes. Considerably rich and creamy upon entry, the bell-clear palate's mineral, citrus and white fruit/flower flavours display wonderful clarity and universal appeal. Its nicely drawn out finish ends with citric acids and a gripping tightness, which although revealing a faint hard edged/bitter aspect, it should settle down with time in the bottle.

ü Another gloriously refined, mineral accented chardonnay from Yalumba with a restrained fruit profile graced by careful winemaker inputs. Although the 2008 is far from my favourite FDW[7c], Yalumba's house style is now completely set and I love it. Drink 2011-2013.
91 points


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

YALUMBA FDW[7c] CHARDONNAY 2007

 - Adelaide Hills, SA
 - $24-$31
 - Screwcap
 - 13.0%alc

Justifiably recognised as riesling and viognier specialists, Yalumba has more recently upped the ante on Australia's chardonnay scene in a big way. The FDW[7c] is Yalumba's admirably underpriced, deluxe release of the great white variety.

Beautifully scented with hazelnuts, lightly toasty oak and tightly wound mineral/lemon fruits, its rather zesty palate tingles the mouth's side, while simultaneously displaying the early signs of bottle age through some developed richness. Announcing bright flavours of lemon and grapefruit, it culminates into a long and savoury finish bound by surprisingly smooth, yet well defined citric acids and a lingering nuttiness.

üAchieving its mission statement perfectly, Yalumba's 2007 FDW[7c] is an ideal representative to rekindle Australia's interest in chardonnay. Drink to 2013.
93 points


Monday, December 14, 2009

TAMAR RIDGE KAYENA VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2007

 - Tamar Valley, TAS
 - $19-$32
 - Screwcap
 - 14.0%alc

I previously reviewed the 2007 Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard Pinot Noir in April 2009, awarding it 93 points and considering it 'Bargain pinot of the year?' One of the major retail chains is flogging it off for $19 a bottle until the end of the year, so if you're interested in drinking a seriously undervalued single vineyard Tasmanian pinot noir, now is a good time to buy.

Sourced exclusively from the Kayena vineyard in Tasmania's north, this 2007 Pinot Noir unfolds to gentle aromas of red fruits and dark cherry with a lightly spiced influence of sweet, minty oak and stalk. Velvet smooth, its light-medium bodied palate shows evenly ripened, bright fruit nuances overlapped by emergent spicy, savoury undertones; soft, ultra-fine tannins and persistent length. Displaying good depth of vibrant fruit and more than adequate varietal texture, its keen balance makes it a deliciously approachable, if not terribly complex Tasmanian pinot noir.

üMy opinion remains much the same; it's still the best $20 pinot I've had this year. Drink to 2012.
93 points


Sunday, December 13, 2009

BEST'S CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006

 - Grampians, VIC
 - $24-$31
 - Screwcap
 - 13.0%alc

The historically significant Best's vineyards suffered badly at the hands of frost prior to the 2007 vintage. Fortunately, fans of this Great Western icon can still rejoice, as Best's delivered an outstanding array of premier reds from 2006, most of which remain easily attainable through Australian retail stores.

Taking time to open up, Best's 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon reveals a heady, spicy fragrance of clove, pepper and herbs overlying redcurrant, cassis, smoked meat and cedar oak aromas in a fashion perfectly indicative of the maker. The medium-full bodied palate presents itself in a very lean, firm manner, unravelling a beautifully focused, classically regional combination of savoury edged dark fruit, spice and cedar oak characters. Framed by a gripping influence of bony tannin, it finishes long and savoury with enduring notes of green olive, exuding masculine charm and sophistication throughout a wine which is marginally more regional than varietal.

üI'm an unashamed lover of the Best's style; firm, spicy, savoury, elegant and long lasting reds, and the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon couldn't have ticked all those boxes any clearer. Like all Best's reds it requires patience to show its best(!). Pull it out in 2018 with confidence. Drink 2016-2021.
93 points


Saturday, December 12, 2009

JOSEPH/PRIMO ESTATE


The Joseph experience continues to be one of the best cellar doors in Australia. Other than the magnificent wines, some of this country's most original, unique and daring, Joseph also offers a wonderful sit down tasting in their extremely modern, almost 21st Century cocktail lounge-like room, complete with transparent red plastic chairs and mirror balls. They also throw in samples of their award winning extra virgin olive oil (perhaps South Australia's most recognisable?) with fresh bread and hard cheese, all free of charge of course. To add to this, Mark, whom I've long believed to be the region's best cellar door hand, recently stamped this fact home by winning the award of McLaren Vale's best cellar door hand, taking with him a trip to a global wine region of his choice (where else but Italy would a Primo man go?).

Basically Primo Estate is a must do for anyone heading to McLaren Vale, especially for lovers of fine wine.

The Joseph range of wines is one of Australia's best. You certainly couldn't accuse any of their wines of being boring styles with no character. Thanks to Mark's generosity the full range (and then a little treat) were available for tasting. All of the wines are quite unique to one and other, while still retaining the hallmarks of quality wine; perfume, texture, character, length, structure, shape, the ability to pair with food and of course longevity.

I was extremely impressed by the three 2007 McLaren Vale reds I tasted from that very challenging season. The Moda just straddles with confidence, almost irrespective of season, while the Angel Gully certainly is a riper, juicier style, it carries it off with wondrous depth and impact, without showing any over ripe or dead fruit character. The cellar door only 2007 Primo Zamberlan (Cabernet/Sangiovese) was also a delight, sitting comfortably within the confines of ripeness.

Over the last few seasons though, the highlight of the Joseph range for me has been the Nebbiolo, a noble Italian grape quickly gaining a loyal following here in Australia. The 2006 was on the tasting list, but a quick chat to Mark about the 2007, and all of a sudden there it was in the decanter, then sitting side by side with the 06 in front of me! (it was also Mark's first tasting). Both wines are exceptional. The 2006 looking even better than when I last tasted it in October 2008. Joseph's Nebbiolo rates right up there in the top handful of Australian wines the fine wine drinking world needs to know about. It's all about savoury elegance, texture, subtlety and perfume. It's wonderfully complex too, complemented by a very deceptive tannic backbone which suggests good ageing potential. It couldn't be much further away from some of the misconceived ideas about Australian reds. I highly recommend any serious drinker of Australian wine hunt one down.

Even though this is Australian Wine Journal I'll quickly make a mention of a 2008 Venetian sourced Garganega which is also available at cellar door. No tasting notes here but well worth seeking out ($25) for those who enjoy a smooth, textural driven and refreshing white.

Tasting notes are posted below.

Primo Estate La Biondina Colombard 2009 ($15)
I reviewed this back in August on this site (86pts) but I think it's looking a little better, smoother and cleaner now, if still a little one dimensional in character. 87

Primo Estate Zamberlan Cabernet Sangiovese 2007 ($28)
Cellar door only. A wonderful wine which gets grape skins from the Moda washed through in the making process, adding further depth and richness. Showing superb aromatics not just for its price but also its season, it reveals a fresh, leafy expression of vivid cassis, raspberry and chocolate oak notes in a very lively and stylish manner. Given its making the palate is surprisingly settled and elegant, presenting a nice mix of medium-bodied berry fruits framed by drying tannin. A truly synergistic blend. 92

Joseph d'Elena Pinot Grigio 2009 ($25)
The Joseph Grigio is all about restrained elegance and texture, which I think the 08 missed out on a bit, but the 09 has come bouncing back with fine form. It has a crunchy pear dominant nose with further citrus pith aromas. The palate has fantastic texture, very luscious and creamy for grigio, with a tightly concentrated, long, fresh and elegant flavour profile drawn out by lemony acids. A fine return to form for one of South Australia's most important grigio labels. (full review soon) 92

Joseph Nebbiolo 2006 ($75)
Lifted, minty, cherry, strawberry, stalk and game nose. Despite having spent 24 months in French oak barriques its oak is perfectly integrated. Light-medium bodied, its palate is very fresh and supple, with a long, savoury/gamey finish drawn out by very soft, sensuous tannins. 93

Joseph Nebbiolo 2007 ($75)
Spearmint shines through on a very musky, meaty nose with a strong perfume of cherries, strawberries and rose petals. Once again any indication of French oak is perfectly integrated and harmonious - superb winemaking. Contains a stronger, firmer, rather more tannic palate than the 06, with a longer, drier finish and slightly astringent, sour edged red berry fruit flavours apparent at this very youthful stage. A compellingly lean and elegant wine. (full review soon) 94

Joseph Angel Gully Shiraz 2007 ($65)
Darkly stained, vibrant colour. Deep, rich and dark fruited nose with a touch of smoky chocolate oak. Its palate is very full and luscious, with a velvet-like texture underscored by a faint juicy undercarriage and silky tannin. Nothing over ripe or overdone, thanks to those wonderful Clarendon vines. 93

Joseph Moda Cabernet Merlot 2007 ($65)
Typically extravagant, with a luscious, rich fragrance of plums, berries, currants and dark chocolate aromas, with just a hint of leafy/herbal quality adding interest. Its smooth, rich, heavy and immense palate is dark fruited and meaty, yet ably supported by outstanding length and sandy tannins. Another stellar effort from the 07 vintage from Joseph. 94

Joseph Sparkling Red 2009 disgorgement ($70)
Classic Joseph dusty, savoury, leathery nose of redcurrant and cherry fruits. It contains a very smooth, rich mid-palate marked by a dry, leafy finish. It's well balanced, elegant and medium-bodied, but just lacks the kick of the greatest Josephs. 92

Joseph LaMaglia Botrytis Riesling Traminer 2008 ($25)
A real 'smells of sunshine' style. Botrytis influenced citrus, white nectarine and marmalade aromas, with a full, rich, concentrated and satisfying palate trailed by a penetrating finish and a framework of clean, uplifting acidity. Perfectly sweet. No 2009 will be made. 93

FOX CREEK


Ah Fox Creek, what happened to you? If someone had asked me three years ago who I thought were the best producers in McLaren Vale, Fox Creek would've rated right up there in my top three. I still remember vividly the joys of drinking their 2004 releases of Short Row Shiraz and Reserve Shiraz, both standout wines from a standout vintage (the Fox Creek entrance sign on Malpas Road still displays the award won by the Reserve Shiraz back in 2006). Today, things are a different story.

The run of difficult vintages has had its toll on Fox Creek's popular reds, with every single one I tasted showing the tell tale signs of uneven ripeness. It saddens me that the highlight of the current range is a rather juicy, varietal verdelho. I can only hope things turn around soon for this McLaren Vale winery with an international presence, as I know they're capable of much better.

Here are my tasting notes from yesterday's cellar door visit. The 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($40.50) was unavailable for tasting, but my review from January 2008 (it's still current vintage) had it as 'over ripe, unbalanced, lacking length and structure - 84 points'.

Fox Creek Shadow's Run Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($12)
A punchy, pungent savvy with a dirty fruit profile. Lacks freshness and zip. 81

Fox Creek Verdelho 2008 ($17)
Announces good character to both aroma and palate, with slightly spicy, juicy melon fruit flavours presented in an easy drinking, refreshing style. 88

Fox Creek Red Baron Shiraz 2008 ($17.50)
Very meaty, stewy nose transfers over onto a rather simple palate, which tastes a bit like the remnants of an overcooked BBQ. 81

Fox Creek Shiraz Grenache Mourvedre 2008 ($17.50)
Certainly one of the more evenly ripened of the Fox Creek wines, but it could just be its youthfulness speaking out. It's a lighter rendition of its blend, with some juicy berry flavours framed by a slightly rustic spice character. 87

Fox Creek Duet Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2006 ($19)
Its leafy, blackcurrant fruit nose shows some promise, without the meatiness of other wines, leading in to a more light-medium bodied palate which although inoffensive, isn't terribly exciting. 87

Fox Creek JSM Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2007 ($22.50)
Dead fruit character on nose, which lacks vibrancy and lift as a result. Once again the palate is a lighter, thinner style, lacking in fruit concentration and balance. 85

Fox Creek Short Row Shiraz 2007 ($28.50)
Once again dead fruit coming through on the nose, in a heavily raisined fashion. Its syrupy palate doesn't hold together very well and won't be getting any better over the short term. Three years ago I believed this was one of the Vale's up and coming labels, now, I'm not sure what's going on with this label. (In fairness the old couple tasting next to us took a bottle home, so I'm sure it still has its fans) 84

Fox Creek Reserve Shiraz 2006 ($70)
Admittedly I quite enjoyed the 2005 Reserve (93pts) but this I did not. It possesses a rather jujube-like fruit nose with raisin and currant aromas presented in a slightly stewy, confectionery fashion overlaid by smooth, sweet oak. The palate is lighter than anticipated, while lacking any serious stimulation in the way of texture, length, vibrancy or structure. It is probably the best of Fox Creek's present lot (just) but that's not saying much right now. It certainly fits within the other wines stylistically, just not by price. 87

Thursday, December 10, 2009

CORIOLE SHIRAZ 2007

 - McLaren Vale, SA
 - $21-$34
 - Screwcap (Stelvin-Lux)
 - 14.5%alc

Coriole's estate release is one of my favourite renditions of a medium-term Australian shiraz. It's performed very well across recent even-numbered vintages (2002-94pts, 2004-94pts, 2006-93pts), which leads us to the just released 2007. With yields down 2007 was a challenging year for most of South Australia, but I'm unsure why I paid such a meagre price for this ($21 at retail!?).

As to be expected for the vintage, the 2007 is more dark fruited and riper than usual, with a slightly raisined bouquet of dark plums, cassis, toasty oak, cinnamon and menthol. The charmingly balanced palate does a fine job of harmonising its components, presenting a fluid, velvet-like texture packed with currant, liqueur black raspberry and fine-grained cedar oak notes defined by a firming extract of dry, sandy tannins. There's good length, positive structure and even a trace of Coriole's classic sour-edged fruit, making the whole experience remarkably consistent to the house style.

Treading cautiously within its season's limitations, this finely honed and measured Coriole Shiraz has once again surpassed my expectations. Kudos to its harmonious yet intense interplay of structure, length and most of all; mouthfeel. Give it time (either in the decanter or in the cellar). Drink 2011-2015.
89 points


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WINE BY BRAD SEMILLON SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009

 - Margaret River, WA
 - $17
 - Screwcap
 - 13.7%alc

Following a string of fantastic white wine vintages, the Margaret River now dominates the upper echelon of Australia's semillon/sauvignon blanc class. A relatively new entrant to the Margaret River scene is wine by brad (est. 2003), whose 1960's Lichtenstein inspired pop art labels reflect a thoroughly modern approach to wine promotion. 

Clear-straw in colour, Brad Wehr's 2009 Sem Sav reveals a funky, herbal and slightly sweaty nose of lemon citrus and gooseberry aromas. Blessed by a smooth, creamy texture offset by refreshingly brisk acids, its long and shapely palate announces a distinctly regional, smoky/herbal expression of clean gooseberry flavour, which culminates with a wonderfully persistent core of juicy sauvignon blanc fruit.

üBeautifully laden with regional character, texture, length and gentle structure, wine by brad's 2009 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc is a totally appealling white blend with enough interest for serious drinkers and quaffers alike. Drink to 2011.
92 points


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TEUSNER THE RIEBKE SHIRAZ 2008

 - Barossa Valley, SA
 - $16-$24
 - Screwcap
 - 14.5%alc

Thanks to budding young superstars like Kym Teusner at Teusner, the future of Barossa Valley wine remains in good hands. Aside from being a splendid young winemaker, Kym is also an avid supporter of promoting the Barossa's distinct sub-regional variation, as well as preserving its older vineyards.

Sourced from the Ebenezer district in the Barossa's north, the 2008 Riebke presents a rather ripe fragrance of plummy dark fruits, raspberry and gentle spice with a minor indication of older, coconut-like oak sitting happily in the background. Although generously ripened its palate just bursts with youthful Barossa shiraz flavour, announcing smoothly approachable, fruit focused nuances of juicy plums, blackberry and cherry. Coated by a smooth measure of creamy oak and gentle tannins, it also reveals a touch of currant flavour in its finish.

O Priced accordingly, Teusner's 2008 Riebke is a very smooth, approachable Barossa shiraz which is ready to drink now. Drink to 2013.
87 points


Thursday, December 3, 2009

HEGGIES BOTRYTIS RIESLING 2007

 - Eden Valley, SA
 - $20-$30
 - Screwcap
 - 11.0%alc

As impressed as I've been with practically the entire Yalumba portfolio lately, I was equally impressed by the warm welcome I received at their cellar door recently. Thanks for the bottle Amanda!

Rather fresh, lightly fragrant aromas of melon, paw paw and citrus marmalade emanate from Heggies' 2007 Botrytis Riesling, with further notes of botrytis funk and lemon sherbet also apparent. A brimming, juicy front palate bursts with nicely concentrated and luscious, clear mineral, lemon, honey and sweet vanilla flavours, before finishing fresh with a wash of soft acids.

ü An easy drinking, cleanly balanced botrytis riesling which sits nicely in the 'not too sweet but sweet enough' side of dessert wines. Drink to 2011.
90 points


YALUMBA

I just realised I took my mates on a tour of 'Australia's First Families' of the Barossa yesterday. Quite inadvertently but that's how it happened.

Quite frankly, straight up, the Yalumba tasting was AMAZING! Perhaps I get a bit overly excited/enthusiastic sometimes over these tastings but I feel that yesterday's tasting was one that few if any Australian cellar doors could genuinely match right now. Aside from being loaded with excellent wines it was incredibly concise, all that was lacking was the Jansz wines as an aperitif.

I must thank the staff (headed by Amanda) on the day who happily opened and poured everything asked. In the end I think around a dozen or more bottles which were stated as 'unavailable for tasting' were opened and poured for our pleasure. It truly helped to show the true extent of where the Yalumba company sits in the scope of Australian wine today. Once again, what a cellar door tasting!

Thanks again to Amanda and the staff for their incredible hospitality, generosity and even the guided tour of the cooperage!

As with the Henschke notes, this was quite a casual tasting, so no notes taken. The following comments are based on memories. I've set my notes out in the same fashion as the wines were poured for us - in a mini-vertical fashion. Once again, I'm not sure any other cellar door in Australia could put together such a concise tasting of wine styles based on current releases. Very impressive stuff. Here are my opinions:

ROUND 1: RIESLING
Pewsey Vale Riesling 2009
Heggies Riesling 2009
Mesh Riesling 2008
Pewsey Vale Contours Riesling 2004
Pewsey Vale Prima Riesling 2008
I've been on a bit of a riesling trip lately so this might've been my favourite mini-vertical, all Eden Valley too! I'm still a little unsure about the 09 Heggies, it seems a bit ripe, pungent and stonefruit-like, but the 09 Pewsey Vale still impresses me. The Contours is the real highlight here though. Bottle aged riesling is a great concept, highlighted by the 04 Contours' strong, pronounced lime juice characters with just a hint of honey/toast and a wonderful oily texture. It might be only a quarter of the way into its life. Although fairly luscious, (not too) sweet and pure, the Prima seems to require a bit more acidity for me, while being a fraction overpriced at $22.95, which, as explained to me, might be because of its (cost price $2) Vino-Lok closure.

ROUND 2: NEW WHITE VARIETAL
Yalumba Vermentino 2009
This Langhorne Creek sourced wine is Yalumba's answer to sauvignon blanc, and what a surprising success it is! Clean and fresh, pungent but not too pungent tropical fruit characters are the order of the day. It fully achieves what it sets out too. Very good white for the region regardless of its grape of origin. I was told it is a Y-Series wine but I couldn't see any indication of it on either the label or price ($15 as opposed to all other Y-Series wines being $10). $10 would be very nice here....

ROUND 3: CHARDONNAY
Yalumba FDW (7c) Chardonnay 2008
Heggies Chardonnay 2008
Fine Dry White for anyone wanting to know hat FDW stands for. It's also possibly the most talked about chardonnay in Adelaide right now. It's incredibly linear, tight and restrained, with a strong lemony accent over mineral, light nutty barrel ferment notes. It's superbly balanced and composed, very restrained and Chablis like, with a long, shapely, mineral, tight and chalky finish. Amazingly only $25, give it 3 years. The Eden Valley sourced Heggies is a complete contrast in style - rather pungent with melon/nectarine/grapefruit notes and buttery vanilla oak. It's an altogether more forward, bold style, but very nice all the same. Amazingly, I'm told the Heggies Chardonnay is to be discontinued (remember the Heggies Pinot Noir anyone?).

ROUND 4: VIOGNIER
Yalumba Y-Series Viognier 2008
Yalumba Organic Viognier 2009
Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2008
Yalumba The Virgilius Viognier 2008
Obviously the house specialty white, I'd like to see any other Australian winery match this set right now. In all honesty I didn't see a lot of difference in the first 3 wines here, all fairly humble, apricoty, slightly phenolic viogniers (I'd go the Y-Series because it's the cheapest), but then you hit the Virgilius - Bang! Wow! Shazam! It bares very little resemblance to the other wines. It's instantly nutty, toasty, savoury, complex and textured - about 4 steps up from the other wines (and the previous vintage). You can find a full review on this site under the other whites tag, but it might've tasted even better on this particular day. Yalumba also provided special viognier glassware for this part of the tasting, the likes of which I've never used before. I loved them though - the shape reminded me of a protea.

ROUND 4: NEW RED VARIETAL
Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2008
This Barossa sourced wine's caused a bit of a minor fuss over here, I didn't even realise it was Yalumba. Funnily enough Amanda was unsure why the bottle made no mention of it either, but it certainly mentioned its medals. For a Barossa temp it contains nice spice, as well as a rather firm, dark cherry fruited palate framed by prickly tannins, but I'm not sure it packed outstanding depth.

ROUND 5: BAROSSA GRENACHE
Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache 2008
Yalumba Single Site Moppa Grenache 2006
Yalumba Single Site Vine Vale Grenache 2006
Despite being relatively unimpressed by the Old Bush Vine at the Royal Adelaide, I hit it up again. It still seems a bit too sweet edged, sour and dirty for me, but it is a $10 wine made from old vines so maybe I'm being too harsh. I'm just not sure if Barossa grenache is my thing (but McLaren Vale - yeah!). The single site wines are made in a similar vein to Hardy's Tintara Single Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz. At $55 each they're both vinified in a similar fashion, encouraging each wine to display its individual site character. They're both very good, extremely supple, medium-bodied Barossa grenache wines with a meaty, musky, almost gamey and floral perfume with just a hint of liqueur cherry/plum. Oak is extremely well integrated and passive. The one problem - I couldn't pick the difference! Both wines seemed almost identical to me! Although fantastic Barossa grenache, I'm not sure if similarity is the point of single site wines.

ROUND 6: PREMIUM RHONISH REDS
Yalumba Hand Picked MGS 2006
Yalumba Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier 2007
From what I understand the Hand Picked MGS replaces the Hand Picked Tempranillo/Grenache/Viognier in this range. A shame really, as the very ambitious and original TGV quite impressed me when I've drunk it in the past. It will be missed. The 2007 Shiraz Viognier though, was surprisingly brilliant. Rather shiraz dominant and dark fruited (Eden Valley viognier), it's plump juicy and generous, with a viognier component which seems to add more spice as opposed to floral lift or apricot notes. It's very long and genuinely full, with great length and a much firmer cut of assertive tannins than I expected. I also liked the 06 of this but somehow the 07 has improved upon it, significantly.

ROUND 7: CABERNET SHIRAZ BLENDS
Yalumba The Scribbler 2008
Yalumba The Signature 2005
I want to start by saying thank god for honest cellar door hands! Amanda began this tasting by saying she thought the 2008 Scribbler wasn't up to the standard of the magnificent 07, something I'd previously read but had yet to discover for myself. Lo-behold, she (and others) were right. Honesty goes a long way in the cellar door environment. It just seemed a little raw edged, while lacking the concentration of bright, juicy fruit which so blessed its predecessor. I found the 2005 Signature a very smooth rendition of its style. Rather meaty, ripe and almost currant-like fruit which managed to just stay within the confines of ripeness. It contained a very good measure of vanilla oak and polished tannins. A good result for its season but I think it's maturing a little quicker than some other recent Signatures, 2004 in particular.

ROUND 8: FINE AND RARE
Yalumba Reserve Cabernet Shiraz 2002
Yalumba Octavius Shiraz 2005
Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
What a way to end the tasting. None of these wines are on Yalumba's standard tasting list (like most the wines we drunk actually). To be honest this was my first ever tasting of Yalumba's flagship Reserve Cabernet Shiraz ($120) and I don't think I could've picked a better vintage to start. It contains that lovely lifted freshness, depth and layered characteristics which so defined Barossa 02's, with both cabernet and shiraz in perfect harmony now at 7 years old. Lovely fragrant vanilla/cedar/chocolate oak and lusciously smooth textures. I thought this would be my least favourite of the trio but it ended up being quite the opposite. The 2005 Octavius initially shows some very pronounced, fresh and fragrant nutty oak, overlying deep, dark plums, chocolate and berry fruits. It's quite an amazing 05 Barossa shiraz, contradicting both its difficult season and the 80 litre oak octaves it was aged in. The 2006 Menzies needs no introduction. I still find it very firm, deep and tannic, in true 06 Coonawarra style - it's definitely a well balanced, long term keeper.

ROUND 9: STICKIES
Heggies Botrytis Riesling 2007
Yalumba Botrytis Viognier 2008
Admittedly we didn't try these wines (a beckoning Henschke and time constraints) but I thought I'd include them here to give a better impression of the concise range of brilliance offered by Yalumba's cellar door. There will be a review of Heggies' Botrytis Riesling posted soon though.

So there you have it. What an incredible tasting across an amazing variety of wine styles (but where's the Jansz party starter;). I'm not sure if any cellar door in Australian could really match that collection right now, all those mini-verticals....
Of course, this is only a selection of what is available for tasting at Yalumba's cellar door, we just happened to be particularly picky on this day ;)

Once again infinite thanks to Amanda and the all staff at Yalumba who were present on the day.

HENSCHKE

Well the heatwave, rain and wind which so defined Adelaide's 2009 spring has finally passed, so what better time to knock off work at midday on a wednesday and take the boys for a drive up to the Eden/Barossa Valleys? Ah the joys of living in Adelaide! Just don't mention anything about that Adelaide Oval redevelopment....

I can't enforce how much better a place to visit the Barossa is midweek, as opposed to weekend. It's true, on weekends the bus groups are rife, and the wait for a single sample of wine can be quite arduous, so patience is required. However, midweek, chances are you'll rock up to a major winery and be the only group present, with the full attention of a cellar door hand at your pleasure.

Henschke is a fine example. Closed sundays and finishing up at 12pm on saturdays, Henschke can be a notriously packed place to visit on the weekend, especially given the small size of its tasting room (10-12 people in the entire room at most). Fortunately this was 4:20pm wednesday afternoon, no one but the three boys and our young, enthusiastic and incredibly accommodating host. It particularly pleased me when the 2006 Mount Edelstone and 2006 Cyril Henschke were available...

I always love talking to the young people of the Barossa - today - I learnt that Jansz and Moscato are the favourite drinks of Barossa youth!

The whole day was an absolute delight, a very casual, fun, almost tourist-like day for me and the boys, so no tasting notes were taken. All of the opinions stated below are based purely on memory.

To be honest the full scope of Henschke's range hasn't fully impressed me over the last few years. There are a few regular highlights; Louis Semillon, Julius Riesling, Henry's Seven, Keyneton Euphonium and Mount Edelstone, and on this particular day things remained much the same.

I thoroughly enjoyed their 2009 release of Innes Vineyard Pinot Gris this time round though, while the just released 2007 Keyneton Euphonium didn't excite me as much as usual. It's still early days for the Keyneton yet though, and you can be guaranteed I'll return to it again at some point in the not too distant future.

The Henschke chardonnays (both 2008 Adelaide Hills and 2008 Eden Valley) continue to underperform for my palate, especially when compared to the cheaper, better wines of nearby Yalumba. Their sauvignon blanc based wines aren't my favourites either.

I also continue to be relatively unimpressed by Henschke's Giles Pinot Noir (2008), Johann's Garden Rhone blend (2008), Abbot's Prayer Merlot/Cabernet (2007 Adelaide Hills) and Tapa Pass Barossa shiraz. These aren't bad wines really, they're just rather overpriced in my opinion. I've never bought any of these wines before and I certainly wasn't going to alter that trend based on this tasting.

Here are some of my opinions (memories) on some of Henschke's more interesting wines that day.

Henschke Louis Semillon 2008
Quite lemony, mineral and a touch of herbal undertones. Good drive, acidity and length. Very well shaped, juicy and structured semillon. Full review soon 92

Henschke Innes Pinot Gris 2009
Great vitality and lift to aromas for gris. Shows true pear/lemon character, with a typically restrained yet pure palate lifted by refreshing acids. I'm not normally a fan of Adelaide Hills gris but I quite liked this. A real 'summer' style. 90

Henschke Julius Riesling 2009
Certainly sits in the better half of 09 Eden Valley rieslings I've had. Quite limey/appley and pithey, certainly not overly ripe, stressed or pungent at all. I was very intrigued by its texture - incredibly smooth and concentrated for Eden riesling, almost viscous. Surprisingly complex for young Eden valley riesling too. Might be worth a deeper look....92

Henschke Henry's Seven 2008
Follows in the direction of recent Henry's Sevens, with a more savoury, spicy expression of its varietal make up (not sure about the order but Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre/Viognier?) Well balanced, elegant and even with a surprisingly firm structure. Good wine. 91

Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2007
Drops 'Estate' from its name because Henschke now include fruit from outside growers. Like the 2006, the 2007 also contains cabernet franc to its shiraz/cabernet/merlot base. Seems a bit ripe - plummy, meaty and dark fruited, but it is quite smooth and deep. Only released a fortnight ago so I'm a bit unsure about the score on this one right now. 89

Henschke Mount Edelstone 2006
Yep! Wow! Great wine (which isn't usually served at Henschke's cellar door) with a perfectly luscious melange of red/black berry fruit flavours and fine French oak. Supple, sensuous tannins, and very fresh considering the 06 season. Perfectly ripened and harmonious wine. A lot have seen this as the pick of the recent Mount Edelstone's but I still like the 04 better (97pts) and perhaps even the 02 (96pts). I see a trend - look out 08! All the same, even at $90, we walked out with 3 bottles (on a tight budget!). That's why wineries should pour their best wines at cellar door! Can't see myself cracking any within 10 years though....96

Henschke Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
(Also not a regular at Henschke's cellar door tastings) Unfortunately, disappointing. You know those wines that seem restrained to the point of requiring more character, weight, texture and structure? Well that's how I felt with the 06 Cyril Henschke. It's certainly very youthful, tight and meticulously balanced, so it might come around with some bottle age. Very hard for me to score but...91

To be expected Hill of Grace was unavailable, but who can afford to give away $550 wines every day? What was interesting though, was that the cellar door hand informed me Hill of Grace would soon be sealed under Vino-Lok(?!). Particularly interesting considering a Penfolds employee told me Grange would be sealed under cork at least as long as I'm alive....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

CASE IN POINT

I just want to introduce a new, hopefully regular segment to this website which will be titled Case In Point.

For the Case In Point segment I'll be introducing a friend of mine, Casey Shields, whom I've known for 20 years now. Casey, like myself, is a wine consumer with a serious thirst for quality wines, with no industry relations or experience. The two of us have toured numerous wine regions together, attended loads of wine tastings and downed copious bottles in each of others company. For the Case In Point posts I'll be selecting wines which have been reviewed by myself within the previous 6 months, and then Casey and myself will sit down and go over the wine again, using my original review as the starting point.

For the Case In Point posts I'll be reposting my original posts, with additional, updated comments from myself and Casey below.

Casey is a wine drinker in the purest sense, he has never reviewed a wine before, but has certainly done a lot of talking about the stuff. I can guarantee you he has no shortage of drinking experience, hell, he beat me to such famous regions as Burgundy, Champagne and the Rhone!

Although it isn't original I like the concept of a second opinion on a bottle of wine, as well as a second look from the original reviewer (myself in this case). I'm looking forward to the Case In Point posts immensely, especially when it comes to seeing what a more 'standard' consumer has to write about wines (and my reviews!) for the first time. I'm hoping it'll provide interesting insight into how someone like Casey perceives wine. Of course, I thank Casey with the deepest gratitude for his time and input.

The first Case In Point relook has been posted below.