Thursday, December 30, 2010

ALTA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010

- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $12-$23
- Screwcap (Stelvin-Lux)
- 12.5%alc

Maybe it's just me, but it seems Alta's Sauvignon Blanc has seen a steady rise in prominence since its initial 2005 release. This pleases me for two reasons; firstly, I think it's one of the Adelaide Hills' better (restrained) sauvignon blancs, and secondly, its competitive pricing (often reduced to under $15) sits in the exact range I usually have in mind when buying a wine of its type.

A clear fragrance of apples and limey minerals immediately clarify the refined edges of Alta's 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, aided by supporting notes of lychees and tropical fruit that do become fractionally more pronounced as the wine sits in the glass. In the mouth there's a real purity of leaner sauvignon blanc fruit evident, which amalgamates with a very crisp finish to produce a refreshing and summer-food friendly white. Beyond that initial assessment lies an effortless, natural flow of crisp green apple and citrus flavour, culminating with slightly crunchy, almost bitter-edged acids not too unlike that of the forbidden fruit itself.

ü Savvy fashionistas may want a bit more tropical fruit nuance here, but Alta's moderately fruited, ably structured sauvignon blanc has ticked the right boxes and missed all the wrong ones for me, especially for $13. Drink to 2012.
89 points


MITCHELL HARRIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009

- Pyrenees, VIC
- $24.95
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

John Harris won me over with his grown up, sophisticated approach to the consumer friendly styles of rose and sauvignon blanc recently, so it's only natural my expectations sit high before sampling his take on the rather more classical drink of Pyrenees cabernet sauvignon.

Initially, Mitchell Harris' 2009 seems a touch ripe and meaty to me, but patience and deeper inspection reveals it to be a level playing field of rich Pyrenees cabernet sauvignon, sitting on the more open and generously fruited side of the fence. There are clear, regional whiffs of eucalyptus leaf and mint casting their scents across a dark, rich nose loaded with bursting blackberries, dark plums and light cedar with a hint of licorice. Its oak influence is clearly a passenger along for the ride (18 months in 5-8 year old French), so any impression of cedar is equally as likely to be from cabernet fruit as it is wood. Throughout the palate it's medium-full bodied, sumptuous and velvety, with a persisting presence of joyously ripened, juicy dark regional fruits that tighten up with real grip through the finish, courtesy of a pleasingly assertive extract of dry, dusty tannins playing a timely counterpoint to its inescapable richness. And all this achieved at less than 14% alcohol...

ü+ For a tidy $25 this considerately oaked red provides some of the richness of dark, regional quality I've come to expect from more feted Pyrenees' cabernet labels, yet with the balanced ripeness and dry tannin structure that has evaded many throughout the drought years. Like Mitchell Harris' other new releases, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a pleasure for serious winos. It's good now, better in 10 years. Drink to 2019.
91 points


TRY THIS WITH A DRY, RICH PYRENEES CABERNET SAUVIGNON

Grana Padano cheese.
Like the similar, longer matured Reggiano Parmigiano, Grana Padano is a dry, hard, sharply flavoured cheese, often labelled under the generic Parmesan name. Genuine examples from Italy can be breathtaking with a good Aussie red.


Monday, December 27, 2010

BANNOCKBURN CHARDONNAY 2008

- Geelong, VIC
- $50-$60
- Cork
- 13.5%alc

In addition to being one of the key wineries behind Geelong's modern day renaissance, Bannockburn was also among the first names associated with truly great Australian pinot noir. However, some of Bannockburn's recent outings have polarised critics and consumers alike, a concern which might have lead to the declassification of Bannockburn Chardonnay from Langton's 2010 classification. Personally, some of my own experiences with Bannockburn wines over the last few years have enforced the benefits of screwcap closures...

From first sniff Bannockburn's 2008 Chardonnay continues the run of fine form set by the label. Tight and funky, like an ambidextrous drummer playing Funkadelic, its classically refined nose expresses both sweet and savoury suggestions through a fragrance of ripe nectarines, green melons and creamy cedar oak, with cheesy/leesy tones and a touch of wheat adding further complexity to an intriguing scent. Medium-full in weight, equal parts rich and viscous; its palate does a stellar job of pushing through a persistent flow of bright fruit meshed with savoury/leesy influences, coating the mouth from front to back with soft nectarine, vanilla and yeast flavours heightened by a dash of nutmeg. An attractive acid balance completes the package; it's beautifully offsetting, bright and penetrative, but the key feature is the way it just cruises alongside its rich core of flavour, creating a wonderful synergy of opulence and discipline to draw out a long, lingering finish.

ü+ Like others, I haven't been terribly enthused by some recent Bannockburn pinot noirs, but I have absolutely no qualms with their 2008 Chardonnay whatsoever. A fine combination of richness and tightness, savoury and fruity; it's my kind of chardonnay. Great stuff. Drink to 2015.
94 points


MT JAGGED SINGLE VINEYARD RESERVE CABERNET MERLOT 2007

- Southern Fleurieu, SA
- $36
- Screwcap (Stelvin-Lux)
- 14.0%alc

Located south of Mount Compass on the main road to Victor Harbor, Mt Jagged is arguably the most prolific producer in South Australia's Southern Fleurieu Peninsula; an emerging region from where I've yet to experience a cabernet truly deserving of the 'Reserve' tag. Mt Jagged's 2007 Reserve is a single vineyard, co-fermented cabernet merlot aged in French oak (20% new) for 12 months.

Even with the back label's recommended decanting, Mt Jagged's Reserve smells about as evenly balanced and settled as the Australian cricket team XI. Its poor form is played out by a soupy, stewy, thinly scented fragrance bowled over by dehydrated olive and herb high notes, with whiffs of raspberry and date expressed in a sticky, jammy fashion. Any hopes of the palate making a second innings comeback are quickly dismissed once the wine hits the mouth. It's thin as can be, showing no signs of mid-palate stuffing or textural interest, while its poorly ripened, stressed fruit component goes on to finish with an imbalanced, acid dominated aftertaste underlined by salty, soupy flavour. Jagged by name, jagged by....

X Very, very difficult drinking at the price. Rest assured I won't be seeking out any 2007 Southern Fleurieu cabernets in a hurry. Drink now.
82 points


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

SCOTT FIANO 2010

- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $22-$26
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

There are a number of good fiano emerging from South Australia at the moment (think Coriole, Oliver's Taranga, Fox Gordon) but one that really has the local cognoscenti buzzing is Scott's 2010 Fiano, a wine whose name sounds like the product of Anglo-Italian lovemaking.

An air of grigio-like pear breezes its way through Scott's leanly scented 2010 Fiano, with additional notes of lemon zest and minerals raising their heads in what is essentially a tight nose of clarity and restraint. Its palate is also clean and clear, perhaps too clear really, as its dainty flavours of juicy white pears and minerals do show a faint watered down aspect, like grapes soaked in H2O. This leads me to categorise Scott's Fiano in the 'will benefit from further vine age' category, because its human inputs have judged a seamless balance of pleasingly soft texture and uncomplicated yet refreshingly crisp acidity, making it an ideal summer food pairing wine already. A touch of dry spice in the finish adds further interest.

O A clean and clear, easy drinking and food friendly fiano whose expression straddles the line between minerally and water-like. You be the judge. I'm still liking the potential for this variety in both McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills though. Drink to 2011.
89 points


Monday, December 20, 2010

DANDELION VINEYARDS WONDERLAND OF THE EDEN VALLEY RIESLING 2010

- Eden Valley, SA
- $22 -$30
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

Dandelion Vineyards is a spectacular new entrant to the South Australian wine scene. Inspired by old-vine fruit material and guided by the talented Elena Brooks, Dandelion has already turned heads by successfully blending shiraz with riesling, but it was their stunningly pure, dry, chalky and impressively structured 2009 Riesling (95pts) that really grabbed my attention.

Although quite tight and slatey, the 2010 Dandelion seems a bit more juiced up than its ultra-lean predecessor at first, yet its floral, gently spiced limey/citric fragrance remains just as compelling in both regional and varietal senses. There's a strong, gorgeous scent of wet stone that makes a clear statement as well, before its palate of stunning purity, length, shape and structure takes centre stage. A limey undercurrent underlines the wine's spotless progression from start to finish, accompanying its initial burst of mineral and white pear juice flavours into a very taut, dry acidic backbone that'll please any Eden Valley riesling enthusiast. To finish, its lime juice flavours gather momentum and surge to the end, with distinct minerals playing a complementary role yet providing greater interest. Together with its glistening structure, these two departing notes leave the mouth dying for more.

ü+ I'm particularly excited about the number of small, boutique producers making classical Eden Valley riesling at the moment, not the least of which is Dandelion Vineyards. Superb. Drink to 2022.
94 points


IS THIS THE ANSWER?

The International Riesling Federation scale, as found on the back label of Dandelion Vineyard's 'dry' riesling.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

LINDEMANS RESERVE PADTHAWAY SHIRAZ 2006

- Padthaway, SA
- $11-$19
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

A couple of fine releases from 2008 might have eased concerns over the immediate fate of Lindemans Coonawarra, but what about little old Padthaway? Although the region has yet to scale the heights once hoped for by some of the larger companies, I've always found pleasure in Padthaway's pungent chardonnays and minty reds. Still, it interested me to see Lindemans' 2005 Reserve Padthaway Shiraz won 'Top Gold' at the '07 National Wine Show.

For a relatively affordable 'Reserve Shiraz', Lindemans' 2006 smells raw, oaky, under-fruited and to put it bluntly; unpolished and jagged. It's been a while since I sat down with a wine like this. Its fruit seems diminished; barren if you will, with fledgling aromas of prunes and varnish showing no signs of the choc-mint/menthol characters I find appealing in Padthaway reds. The palate follows suit with a hard blockiness that envelops its docile, thin, dead fruit character, but rather more surprising is the emanating presence of alcohol given its stated 13.5%, in what is a very thin, altogether vacant conclusion. The words 'vibrancy', 'life' and 'character' are about as relevant here as the word 'under-exposed' is to an Oprah tour of Australia.

X The 2008 of this is already out and given the high praise afforded to Lindemans' 2008 Coonawarra releases, I'd hedge my bets on that instead. That is of course, if this is your kind of thing. 'Yuck', she said. Drink now.
80 points


Friday, December 17, 2010

STEFANO LUBIANA PRIMAVERA CHARDONNAY 2009

- Southern Tasmania
- $25-$33
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Whether it be pinot noir, chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc or sparkling wines, I've never experienced a bad drop from Stefano Lubiana. With yields down in 2009, Lubiana's entry level chardonnay, the Primavera, was the only chardonnay made that year.

The 2009 Primavera Chardonnay rises attractively from the glass with a bright, savoury and grainy fragrance, that conceals both a crystal-clear cool-climate fruit profile of granny smith apples and grapefruit, as well as a tightly hidden influence of dry French oak. Furthermore, its aromatic focal point is quietly bookended by lower, richer notes of toffee and yeast, with a clever touch of spice pleasing the high notes. Slick and refreshing, its palate is powered by a clean, buttery undercarriage that flies through to a nutty finish marked by departing notes of melon and herb, however, with air and warmth a brassier note emerges down the line, denying the wine a little length and definitive freshness, so don't drink it too warm. Regardless of this minor quibble, it's still a very clean, intricately made Tasmanian chardonnay that suits immediate consumption beautifully.

ü My view remains the same; I've yet to have a Stefano Lubiana wine I wouldn't buy twice. Drink to 2013.
91 points


A CHRISTMAS GIFT IDEA PUT TO THE TEST: WINE SHIELD


A few months ago I was given two 6-packs of Wine Preserva's Wine Shield, a device used to help prolong the freshness of opened bottles of wine, for up to 5 days. It works by placing the Wine Shield (pictured bottom left) onto the surface of the wine with a twisting device (also pictured), thus floating the shield on the wine's surface via bubble wrap-like air pockets, which provides a barrier between the wine and air, slowing the oxidation process. It's all quite simple really.

To put Wine Shield to the test I simultaneously opened two bottles of Wynns' 2008 Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Shiraz Merlot, a wine I consider reasonably reflective of the type of wine usually left open for a couple of days, whether it be at a consumer's house or a restaurant. I placed a Wine Shield in one of them but not the other, and took separate notes on each of the wines, side by side, once a day for a week.

My original review of Wynns' 2008 Cabernet Shiraz Merlot can be found here.

Here's the results:

Day 1 (opening)
Control Wine: I bought this wine on the day, from a retail outlet, and it presented warmer, richer scents on the nose when first opened.

Wine Shield Wine: This wine had been sitting on my wine rack since September and it was colder and more closed initially than the other wine, but after sitting in the glass for 45mins its aroma essentially matched that of the Control Wine. Kudos to Wynns winemaking team for consistency between these two, mass-produced wines.

Day 2
Control Wine: On opening, considering this wine was never decanted/aerated, it actually smells awkward, like cardboard/bran flakes with blackcurrants. After sitting with a glass out of it for a day, it smells a bit flat. In contrast to the nose, its palate is rich and juicy, not too far removed from my original note.

Wine Shield Wine: Smells much better, richer and more profound than the Control Wine. The same 3 elements I originally observed; rich fruit, oak and spice, are all apparent on the nose. It's much softer aromatically. The palate seems more saturated with dark fruit flavour than the Control Wine, and if anything, it's possibly filled out a bit since day 1. Length looks good too.

Day 3
Control Wine: Alcohol/warmth seems to stick out more. Fruit resembles more dates (which was originally noted) with some oak evident, but any spice/eucalyptus seems fleeting, looking more like menthol. The cardboard/bran notes are still there. As with the previous day, the palate better matches my original note than the nose. Drinks fine really, with its core of luscious dark berry fruit flavours still in tact.

Wine Shield Wine: Once again richer, smoother and softer on the nose. Palate still drinks fresh and rich, although I detect hints of menthol at the finish as opposed to my original 'eucalypt'. The tannins seem to show more grip than the Control Wine.

Day 4
Control Wine: Really starting to drop away on the nose (prune juice now?), with freshness of fruit and aromatic character giving way to first signs of vinegar. Palate still drinks okay but there's a warmth emanating at the finish.

Wine Shield Wine: No vinegar characters but its freshness doesn't seem quite as lively as on previous days. For the first time the cardboard/bran note I recognised in the Control Wine on day 2 is now evident here. More date and menthol on the nose. Palate drinks reasonable but may be on the wane. It shows dark, ripe and rich fruit flavours upfront, but it's a bit flat to finish (still softer than the Control Wine) and its brightness isn't exactly A1. If I were to score this tasting I'd say 87 points, maybe 88 at best.

Day 5
(After having a big day I didn't assess either wine during the day, but woke up in the middle of the night and took notes on their aromas)
Control Wine: Nose really becoming a bit indistinct and flat.

Wine Shield Wine: Retains more fragrant lift and dark fruit aromas than the Control Wine, but likewise, it isn't as inviting as it once was.

Day 6
Control Wine: Nose staring to show volatility; varnish, vinegar, alcohol, little or no richness of fruit, but there is a touch of blackberry left, maybe. Although still relatively luscious upfront, its palate thins to finish.

Wine Shield Wine: Softer fragrance, black fruit and yes, perhaps even spice. Palate is soft and still rises through the finish, unlike the control wine. Admittedly it's looking good.

(This was as far as I had initially intended the taste testing to go, but the Wine Shield Wine was drinking so well I thought I'd push it out another 2 days)

Day 7
Control Wine: Fruit is really dying away now. Just smells flat and slightly porty, nothing like day 1 at all really. Flavour definition is getting lost, seriously (just tastes like generic cask red really) whilst textural interest is non-existent. It's downright simple but still inoffensive really. I'd be content with this in a cask, although it's a struggle to drink, even for me...

Wine Shield Wine: Immediately softer and livelier, but there's certainly a hint of fruit breakdown around the aroma's edges (if that makes sense). Softness of texture is still apparent, but depth of flavour is wading. Likewise, its character is simplifying, yet it still finishes agreeably long. Now definitely a real quaffing wine, yet not cask quality like the Control Wine. 86 points maybe?

Day 8
Control Wine: Well gone now. Nothing smooth or rich about the palate at all, and its finish is getting harsh. Its fruit profile now resembles dark grape juice at best.

Wine Shield Wine: We have a problem! The level of wine has become so low in the bottle, that the bung is sticking through, which has lifted the Wine Shield to stick to the bottle's side, leaving the wine exposed to air. Keep in mind, Wine Shield's packaging does say 5 days....
Fittingly, the wine has lost a lot of quality with this overnight foul-up, more so than on any other night, but it still has much more to it than the Control Wine.


CONCLUSION
Without doubt, Wine Shield works exactly as intended. The difference between the two wines was evident from day 2 and it only seemed to get greater as the taste testing went on. It would be a very handy device for restaurants or bars, as well as people who tend to have open bottles of wine lying around the place. Its price is fair too, starting from around $10 a 10-pack up to around $100 for 120. At no more than a dollar a unit you're not really adding too much to the cost of your wine here.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ROBERT CHANNON WINES VERDELHO 2009

- Granite Belt, QLD
- $23-$28
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Well, my noble search for a Queensland wine to review on Australian Wine Journal has come to a happy conclusion, courtesy of the very kind Stu of The Wine Wankers. Stu's choice is exactly the type of wine I've been looking for. It's something of a regional specialist style, made by Queensland's most decorated maker of verdelho.

Although the varietal/regional descriptors for Granite Belt verdelho are hardly over publicised, I sense a brightness of tropical fruit within Robert Channon's 2009 which immediately casts my mind to the Sunshine State. It goes well beyond the simple citrus zest/hay aromas of Australia's better known, generic verdelho, by delivering a well defined (for the style) fragrance of lemon, nettles, paw paw, kiwi fruit and perhaps even under-ripe banana, with a passing of minerals adding refinement. Punctuated by a juicy glob of ripe, rich tropical fruit salad flavour that has me thinking 'summer', its palate is relatively straight forward in texture, if a touch viscous, but it goes on to finish long with a mouth-filling extract of verdelho's typical, softish/spiky acids and a trace of herbal character. Whether it's a good thing or not, I can't help but think of sauvignon blanc with this wine.

O Robert Channon's 2009 is a darn good verdelho with a more expressive, tropical fruit-like component than its competitors from the southern states, but I just hold a question over its value for money at $27.50rrp, regardless of where it comes from. Bottom line: I'd happily drink it, but I'd want change from a twenty. Drink to 2011.
89 points


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

KNAPPSTEIN ENTERPRISE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008

- Clare Valley, SA
- $37-$46
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

The Enterprise is Knappstein's single vineyard, reserve level cabernet sauvignon. Its fruit source is a low yielding, 40+ year old dry grown vineyard planted over Terra Rossa soils at the northern end of the Clare Valley.

Deeply coloured, dark and inky to gaze upon in the glass, Knappstein's 2008 Enterprise has happily gifted minty-cabernet-loving-me a surprisingly minty fragrance considering its hot year. Beyond its minty lift there are glossy notes of black/purple berries, violets and smooth vanilla/chocolate oak, which thankfully, bare no suggestions of dead or over ripe fruit. On entry to the palate it's pleasingly silky, juicy and almost fluffy, before its slick array of minty dark berry and vanilla oak flavours become grittier as the wine moves to a more sour-edged, astringent finish thanks to a convoy of powdery, sandpaper-like tannins and clear acidity. There just seems to be something missing in the wine's transition from sensuous fore-palate to coarse climax, a missing link if you will, which, if anything, probably speaks of the often discussed deficiencies of cabernet sauvignon's mid-palate more than anything else.

O Knappstein's Enterprise is a freshly fragrant, silky 2008 Clare Valley cabernet that does defy its season somewhat, however, its flip-side reminds me why some no longer find one-day cricket inspiring. It starts exciting and ends with a flurry, but what happened in the middle section again? Drink to 2013-2020.
89 points


Monday, December 13, 2010

RED HILL ESTATE BLANC DE BLANC 2005

- Mornington Peninsula, VIC
- $17-$35
- Cork
- 13.2%alc

As much as I appreciate the more traditional pinot noir/chardonnay (and of course, pinot meunier) sparkling combination, my eyes always light up a fraction when they see the words 'Blanc de Blancs'.

Quite unfortunately, Red Hill Estate's 2005 seems rather evolved, flat and lacking vitality throughout. Its nose echoes oyster shells, caramel and brioche in a strangely compelling, sweetish style, but it's the palate that has me wanting more, a lot more. Smooth and round yes, but it's about as loose as the elastic on an old pair of underpants. There's a trace of granny smith apple flavour in there, but I'm going to refer to Tim Cohen who had a similarly lackluster experience with a 2005 Blanc de Blanc here, because this wine is also dominated by a distasteful briney/salty aspect, with a speck of citric acidity barely evident for the optimistic explorers.

X I can only hope this was a bad bottle. In cases like this, I can only call it as I taste it, as I paid for it. I do note that the current 2006 vintage is $35 on the winery website, whilst I paid a mere $17 for this at old mate Man Durphy's... Drink now.
82 points


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

ASHTON HILLS ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2008

- Adelaide Hills, SA
- $40-$53
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

I recall having a chat with Ashton Hills' Stephen George about 18 months ago, who told me he was unsure if the fruit quality from 2008 would justify a reserve level pinot noir release. Taking that into account, he's done a fantastic job with both of his premier pinots from the hot 2008 vintage. The 2008 Estate even won 'Best Pinot Noir' at the 2009 Australian Cool Climate Wine Show.

Even with the season's limitations, Stephen George has managed to craft an Adelaide Hills pinot noir with a right army of aromatic suggestions. It's at once joyously ripened, wild, fragrant, meaty, earthy and herbal, with sweetly fruited notes of darker cherries supported by a gracing of spearmint and a spicy vanilla oak influence that's fractionally restrained by the standards of a young Ashton Estate (no new oak). Its natural pinot noir depth and seduction are attractive high points. The palate is initially supple yet straight forward to commence, evolving with sappy, then dark and meaty flavours that become more herbal and spicy with progression. To finish, there's a wonderfully lithe acid/tannin structure whose subtlety and grace contradicts its hot year, but it could use more dryness, grip and physical coarseness for my tastes.

ü A very tasty, well crafted pinot noir whose physical impression is a touch simple to have been truly great. It's still yards better than what I'd expect from most makers of Adelaide Hills pinot noir though. Drink to 2014.
91 points

Thursday, December 9, 2010

FIRE GULLY SHIRAZ VIOGNIER 2008

- Margaret River, WA
- $25.90
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

For the first time in 2008 Pierro's Mike Peterkin has added viognier to his Fire Gully Shiraz. He hasn't been too shy about it either, co-fermenting a rather generous 9.7% of the white grape into the blend.

With its hefty viognier component I wasn't sure what to expect from this Margaret River shiraz. Optimistically; intensely aromatic, floral, musky and spicy. Pessimistically; something else. What I can say is that after an hour in the glass it's surprisingly withdrawn, a touch rustic and meaty on the nose, as it presents a baked apricot-lead fragrance of plums, licorice and stewed rhubarb with a smaller degree of secondhand smoky, spicy oak. On the palate it seems thin and hollow, circling the mouth without truly exploring the desired depths of the mid-palate. It's essentially light-medium bodied but its elegantly styled weight doesn't transfer over to an elegant feel, and although there's some plausible black cherry and apricot skin flavours, I still hold concerns over the wine's brightness and its rather disjointed, tart finish and structural elements.

X All-up, Fire Gully's 2008 doesn't really add up, but this is a Margaret River shiraz viognier I'm talking about here. Drink to 2012.
86 points


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

TEUSNER THE DOG STRANGLER (MATARO) 2009

- Barossa Valley, SA
- $20-$29
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

Kym Teusner's popularity and confidently styled Barossa reds find him reaching an ever increasing audience of fine wine drinkers. His 2009 Dog Strangler Mataro was recently awarded an impressive 7.5/10 by Sean Mitchell at Grape Observer, as well as finding its way into Red's Top 5 of 2010.

Straight off the bat this wine unleashes a very ripe fragrance strongly beset with plum skins, prunes and violets, but give it an hour in the decanter and it becomes deeper, more savoury/complex and better integrated. With time a richly scented tone of melted chocolate emerges, complementing its black plum and raisin aromas alongside a wonderfully rustic punch of mataro-induced turned earth and ground spice. It smells ripe yet smooth and measured, beautifully reflecting old-vine fruit depth and Barossa plushness. Perhaps surprisingly so considering its regional/varietal make-up, the palate elegantly introduces itself as medium-bodied and as silky as a nice pair of lady's knickers. It's particularly deep, smooth and rich in juicy dark fruits through the front and middle sections, but its crowning achievement is the way it advances with savoury, spicy and rustic complexity towards an extremely long, utterly impressive finish, graced by a moderately dry dusting of ripe tannins. Length of fruit is fantastic.

ü+ I haven't been this enthused by a straight Barossa mataro since Torbreck's $185 2005 The Pict (95pts). The high quality of the old-vine fruit in Teusner's 2009 Dog Strangler is plain to see, but it's the control of this important resource, implemented by truly complementary winemaking, that makes this wine so universally delicious. Drink to 2017.
92 points


A FINE ACCOMPANIMENT TO BAROSSA MATARO

Charcoal grilled T-Bone steaks (portable Weber).
Cooked and enjoyed whilst watching a most un-South Australian summer-like lightning storm, on the night of December 7, 2010.


Monday, December 6, 2010

JANSZ PREMIUM VINTAGE CUVÉE 2005

- Pipers River, TAS
- $36-$45
- Cork
- 12.5%alc

The quality of Jansz Tasmania's entry level sparkling wines have been so good over recent years, that I've often overlooked the brand's premier releases. This oversight was given a serious shake-up recently, when I tasted the spectacular 2002 Late Disgorged Jansz (95pts).

The complexity of Jansz's 2005 Vintage perplexes me. Its character laden fragrance is seriously funked up and wild; lashing out with rebelling notes of tangerine citrus woven through cream, toasted nuts and brioche, but there's also a riper, richer fruit component better resembling white nectarine, as well as an ethereal aromatic cocktail of oyster shell and melted white chocolate to behold. Its palate is very rich, luxuriantly creamy and round, with a full-on expanse of soft, clean flavours likened to mineral, cream and citrus augmented by oyster shell notes, with this fishy funkiness becoming more apparent in its transition to a more savoury, complex finish. Thankfully, it tightens through the finish in a structured, shell-like fashion, conceived more through tingly acids than refreshing effervescence. Although creamy and foamy, the effervescence could use a lot more sparkle and definition for my tastes.

O Round, clean, foamy and complex, but I'd loved to of seen more effervescent tightness, length and finesse. For me, the 2005 Vintage Jansz has everything the non-vintage release needs to be a spectacular wine, without the attributes that make the standard wine such a belter. Drink to 2012.
91 points


Sunday, December 5, 2010

MCWILLIAM'S INHERITANCE CHARDONNAY 2009

- Various, AUS
- $4-$11
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Like its slightly more expensive sister label, Hanwood, McWilliam's Inheritance range offers pretty decent drinking for its recommended retail price of $8. However, having just said that, I usually find chardonnay to be one of the trickier varieties to get right around that price range.

The nose of McWilliam's 2009 Inheritance Chardonnay states something of a pleasant surprise; it's simple yet clean and gently scented with a fragrance of white peach fuzz backed by a lighter note of grilled nuts - no complaints here. On entry to the palate a zippy acidity buzzes in, before forming a lithe, stringy structure around its soft melon and stonefruit flavours, which finish intriguingly bittersweet yet agreeably soft. Cumulatively, these factors provide a relatively fun, clean drinking experience, that despite its simplicity would be hard to fault were it not for a hint of alcohol rearing its head towards the climax.

ü+ For even less than $8 at the major discount chains, McWilliam's 2009 Inheritance Chardonnay makes a great each-way bet as a Monday night cooking/drinking wine. Some for you, some for me... Drink to 2012.
87 points


HANDY USES FOR A GOOD CHEAP CHARDONNAY #2

Casey's mussels in a creamy white wine sauce.


(For the mussels statisticians out there: 40 mussels purchased, 36 thrown in for steaming and 35 opened)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

JOSEPH SPARKLING RED 2010 disgorgement

- McLaren Vale, SA/Various, AUS
- $56-$80
- Cork
- 13.5%alc

After a couple of so-so releases of Black Shiraz (or at least as I've seen it), the Joseph now sits firmly as my most prized sparkling red. Joe Grilli's tall-bottled icon is something of a super cuvée, combining every shiraz Joe's made since the 1980's with a random selection of matured Australian reds from the 1960's and 70's, a hogshead of Joseph's Moda Cabernet Merlot and some fine Australian fortified wines as dosage. Just thinking of this process causes me to envision Joe as a crazed alchemist, cackling away whilst conjuring up his sinister brew.

Immediately proclaiming the combination of maturity and freshness I ultimately seek in sparkling reds, Joseph's spectacular 2010 disgorgement scatters leafy/herbal aromas over charry oak, tobacco, dark cherries and perhaps even animal hide (dry, not damp if that makes any sense), with its collection of fragrant savoury tones communicating complexity and masculinity. The downright delicious palate balances medium weight with imposingly rich, savoury flavours and a very dry structure, as it forages into the mouth with wonderful elegance and complexity, meshing dusty tannins with tickly effervescence to draw out an exceptionally well directed, very long and fine finish, beset with lingering notes of dry herbs and licorice at the climax. I love its savoury elegance, richness and intense dryness.

ü+ Now here's a wine to convert doubters of sparkling reds. It's difficult for me to see how even the most discerning drinker wouldn't like this. Quite literally, it's got it all. Yes! Drink to 2018.
95 points


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WYNNS CABERNET SHIRAZ MERLOT 2008

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

It's true, the Cab/Shiraz/Merlot has traditionally been my least favourite Wynns red (haven't tried that Green Label Cabernet yet though...), but the quality of Coonawarra's 2008 vintage tells me now is as good a time as any to give it another shot.

Deep, dark and rich, the nose of Wynns' 2008 CSM shows 3 layers of aroma as I see it (or smell it). Initially, a punchy presence of dark plums and dates rise to the fore with plenty of gusto, cloaking a middle section reminiscent of smoky old cedar and dried eucalyptus leaf, before spicy touches of clove and white pepper tickle the high tones to conclude. Smooth, rich and practically creamy throughout, the palate is highlighted by a depth and persistence of flavour, as well as an effortless balance I've never encountered from the label before. Luscious dark berry fruit flavours pump through its heart, with a glossy extract of smoothly ripened tannins lifting it to a lengthy finish underlined by notes of cedar and herb. It's very polished throughout and almost rounded; to the point where it could use more edge, but for its low-end price there's absolutely nothing to cry about here.

ü+ On discount, Wynns' 2008 Cab/Shiraz/Merlot is a great value Australian red, pure and simple. Drink to 2018.
90 points


OZ WINE TOONS




Monday, November 29, 2010

MITCHELL HARRIS ROSÉ 2010

- Macedon Ranges/Pyrenees, VIC
- $22
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Even on Rosé Revolution day I'm willing to admit that pink isn't my favourite shade of wine. However, there's a growing number of Australian wineries making well conceived rosés from varieties such as nebbiolo, pinot noir, grenache and sangiovese; whose fresh, dry and even savoury wines are causing me to reconsider my views.

A clever blend of early picked Macedon Ranges pinot noir (sparkling base pressings) and Pyrenees sangiovese (bleed), this pale pink/bronze rosé is a little timid on the nose, barely whispering aromas of sour cherry and citrus marked by a faint savoury edge. Its lightly weighted and textured palate drinks with the freshness and dryness of a good quaffing white, but funnily enough, it tastes light pink. It's actually very clean and well controlled for the style, with a balanced, if simple expression of pink grapefruit flavour zipped up by a tangy acidity which refreshes the mouth without dropping any of the dirty, candied aspects associated with lesser rosé.

ü Thanks to wines like the very clean and dry 2010 Mitchell Harris Pinot Noir Sangiovese, my belief in Australian rosé continues to move in an upwards direction. Drink to 2011.
89 points


A SIGN OF THE TIMES

If you'd like to know which wine continues to draw the masses into my favourite Adelaide wine retailer, just read the sign.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

MITCHELL HARRIS SAUVIGNON BLANC FUMÉ 2010

- Pyrenees, VIC
- $20
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Thanks to its textural interest and savoury/smoky complexity, I've developed something of a soft spot for wooded sauvignon blanc. When (or if) Australia's infatuation with fresh and fruity Kiwi savvy passes, I'm hoping to see a greater number of our producers follow this rather more sophisticated approach to the style.

For a sauvignon blanc which spent around 6 months in oak the 2010 Mitchell Harris is surprisingly fresh, fruity and primary; blowing off cleanly endowed scents of limes, kiwifruit, white flower and passionfruit with an oak influence that introduces smoothness and restraint more so than smoky or savoury complexity. The palate is neat, tidy and wonderfully formed, with an ably constrained fruit core that builds with flavour intensity towards the back palate alongside a charmed greeting of dry, smoky wood that wasn't so evident on the nose. There's hints of gooseberries, minerals, creamy feel and flavour; and the whole package is beautifully wrapped up by a mouthfilling, limey acidity levelled out by a persisting brininess.

ü+ A very classy sauvignon blanc which echoes clever production with every sip. Full marks to Mitchell Harris for being a small winery willing to champion the fumé style over the more 'standard' model, and of course, full marks for executing it to great effect. Drink 2011-2014.
91 points


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TAPANAPPA FOGGY HILL VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2009

- Fleurieu Peninsula, SA
- $50-$55
- High quality, vintage dated cork
- 13.0%alc

The establishment of Tapanappa could be the most exciting thing to ever happen to South Australian pinot noir. After following up his first vintage (2007) with a much improved wine from 2008 (94pts), Brian Croser has set the bar even higher with his best release yet from 2009. The future for Tapanappa's young Foggy Hill vineyard looks very bright indeed.

Although not astoundingly complex in its youth, the fruit component of Tapanappa's 2009 Foggy Hill is very bright, pure and clear as day. Like a baby it's a joy to behold, opening to a controlled whiff of cherry kernels augmented by light spice undertones and floral overtones, with a tight interlocking of fresh and fragrant cedar/vanilla oak adding grainy, savoury pizzazz. The palate's considerably more silken, supple, finer and elegant than the 2008 (which I actually drunk last week), with a level of medium-bodied, arousing touch that slows things down a notch in the bedroom like a good lover deserves. It's surprisingly patient, under spoken and gentle, but its graceful demeanor conceals a rich depth of earth, leather and cherry accents built up by a dry and dusty, lithe backbone that's as sensuous as it is assertive. Humble balance is the real key here, as everything falls into place with the timing of an orchestra.

ü+ Having reached an air of majestic bliss, elegance and textural precision I've never encountered in an 18 month old pinot noir from South Australia before, Brian Croser has created a rare, true enthusiasts South Australian pinot noir. Drink to 2019.
95 points


KNAPPSTEIN 8:8:18 RIESLING 2009

- Clare Valley, SA
- $23
- Screwcap
- 8.0%alc

To say the least, Australians have shown a degree of uncertainty when it comes to labelling off-dry rieslings. Knappstein's 8:8:18 takes the popular formula of incorporating the wine's residual sugar levels into the name and adds to it, by also including its alcohol (8%) and total acidity (8 grams/litre, well, 8.2 actually but that would just sound silly on the label now wouldn't it?).

The first thing to strike me about Knappstein's 8:8:18 is its T/A and residual sugar balance isn't that far removed from Grosset's recent off-dry outing, although Knappstein's wine has considerably less alcohol. It's surprisingly slatey/chalky/flinty on first sniff, perhaps even savoury and dry, but underneath that first layer lies a speck of honeyed lemons providing varietal/stylistic punch. Although clear and bright for the most part, the palate is driven by a rich, sweet thread of sugary/glycerol-like flavour that resides throughout. Its most pleasing point is a hint of flinty character on the mid-palate, but it passes quickly, turning into something closer resembling lime candy to finish. Like other off-dry Clare rieslings it finishes a bit loose, without any of the tightness or grip of the region's classic dry styles.

O Relatively clean, very drinkable (low alcohol related) and probably beautifully suited to Asian foods, but not lifting my confidence in off-dry Clare riesling like Grosset's wine did. Drink to 2013.
87 points


Monday, November 22, 2010

KNAPPSTEIN ACKLAND VINEYARD RIESLING 2010

- Clare Valley, SA
- $27-$36
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Knappstein's reserve level riesling, the Ackland, is a single vineyard wine sourced from a cool, elevated Watervale site (420-450 metres) planted in 1969 over the region's classic red loam and limestone. Followers of the Ackland Riesling will be glad to hear that winemaker Julian Langworthy believes the 2010 may be the best wine he's ever made.

Distinctly more refined on the nose than Knappstein's Hand Picked Riesling of the same year, the 2010 Ackland's fragrance brings in immediate thoughts of fresh green apples, lemon and talc, but its aromatic lift is presently constrained by a defining, almost steely tightness that follows through to a gripping palate. A beautiful clarity of pure lemon, lime and melon flavours sing the palate's opening verse, before a strong surge of limey minerality comes forth to command the show, guiding the wine in a more savoury, steelier direction towards a taut climax drawn into line by a zippy, laser-like acidity that cuts with smart precision.

ü A very fine, bell-clear Watervale riesling that harmonises a slick combination of minerality with limey undertones and a brisk acidic backbone. It should cellar particularly well. Drink to 2020.
93 points


Sunday, November 21, 2010

KNAPPSTEIN HAND PICKED RIESLING 2010

- Clare Valley, SA
- $16-$22
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

My early impressions of 2010 suggest it should be the third straight good vintage for South Australia's premier riesling districts. The better 2010 rieslings I've had from both Clare and the Eden Valley show a pleasing richness and fullness of flavour, complemented by the tight acid structures that lovers of these wines seek.

Aromas of tropical fruit punch and blossom emanate from Knappstein's Hand Picked Riesling, in a perfumed fashion that's bound to please many, while a slightly sweet-edged yet clean expression of lemon and lime fruit lingers beneath. Although a little loose in some sections, the palate is squeaky clean, juicy and downright addictive on a hot day. Its initial flavour burst of lemons, apples and mineral evolves into a more lemony, tangy and perhaps even sherbet-like finish, pushed along by an approachable, soft and brittle acid balance that refreshes as it cleanses. This time of year, drink it refrigerator-cold for maximum return.

ü Knappstein's 2010 Hand Picked Riesling may be a fraction simple and without the sheer power of Clare's finest, but it's 35 degrees in Adelaide today and I can't help myself from going back to the fridge to pour myself another glass before the missus gets home. My only wish is that it were $5 cheaper, like Jim Barry's Watervale. Drink to 2016.
90 points


Thursday, November 18, 2010

DEXTER MORNINGTON PENINSULA CHARDONNAY 2009

- Mornington Peninsula, VIC
- $44
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

Although I've never had a Dexter wine before, my experiences with Yabby Lake suggest Tod Dexter isn't the type of guy to let a loosely styled Mornington Peninsula chardonnay slip through the cracks. Just 4080 bottles of the 2009 Dexter Chardonnay were made, from vines planted in 1987.

A savoury whiff of creamy/nutty oak underpins the fragrance of Dexter's 2009, which is cleanly lifted by a springy citric component indicative of both lemon and tangerine fruits. Like a lot of good Aussie chardonnay there's an aroma of nectarine present, but I'm gonna lean towards yellow nectarine over my usual white here. To sum up, its palate is about as polite and well groomed as an usher at a royal wedding; smooth, spotless and debonair, with all of its components integrated in a tidy fashion. Upon deeper inspection you'll find a clear expression of creamy lemon and white pear flavours which evolve in a pleasingly savoury, perhaps even spicy manner (well handled oak?), with the last word spoken by a ginger-like tone. My only wish would've been to of seen tighter, clearer definition of acidity, but that could just be the difficult vintage playing its part.

ü This is exactly the type of chardonnay I could drink all night long without a fuss, but for $44, I'd prefer something a bit more mesmerising or age-worthy. Drink to 2015.
92 points


FIRE GULLY CHARDONNAY 2008

- Margaret River, WA
- $25.90
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

Fire Gully is the second label of Pierro, one of Australia's most distinguished makers of chardonnay. The Fire Gully Chardonnay is made in a contrasting style to Pierro's icon, with most of the wine fermented in stainless steel and only a small amount seeing oak.

Fire Gully's 2008 Chardonnay jumps out of the glass with a truly forthright, assertively fruited fragrance which hits more than a few sweet notes along the way. It possesses an abundance of ripe, peachy and pungent aromatics, reminiscent of ripe melons, pineapple juice and corn with a hint of warmth etched throughout. Up front and brassy, with a length of flavour that initially holds itself back from true extension (but penetrates deeper with time), its relatively rich, smoothly textured textured palate does show plenty of peach fuzz and corn flavour, but its lack of authoritative elegance indicates to me that this style of chardonnay may be better suited to rather more restrained alcohol/ripeness levels. Or maybe it's just me...

O Quite a boldly flavoured, ripe example of a lightly oaked Margaret River chardonnay, which doesn't really possess the refinement of Australia's best 'modern' styles. Drink to 2013.
88 points


Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SHAW VINEYARD ESTATE PREMIUM RIESLING 2009

- Canberra District
- $22
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

After thoroughly enjoying a bottle of Shaw Vineyard Estate's off-dry 2009 Isabella Riesling (90pts) almost a year ago, my thirst was well and truly quenched in anticipation of the Canberra-based maker's dry 2009 Riesling. So without further adieu, here it is.

A year in the bottle has seen the bath salts and limey florals of Shaw Vineyard's 2009 Riesling take on hints of lime marmalade-like character. Fortunately, this extra degree of character is presented in a fresh and inviting way, but it actually seems to dissipate with time towards a more youthfully apparent nose. The palate enters with smoothness, concentration and a touch of juicy fruit, before some seriously pure lime juice flavours let loose with clear definition. For those who enjoy a Corona with a wedge of lime in the neck (not dropped in the bottle), think of that refreshing first mouthful. A certain tanginess marks its finish with some pleasing length, but a bit more cut through the back palate would've been wonderful.

O A tidy little Canberra riesling with plenty of limey character. Seafood addicts; dive in! Drink to 2015.
90 points


Thursday, November 11, 2010

JOSEPH MODA CABERNET SAUVIGNON MERLOT 2008

- McLaren Vale, SA
- $57.50-$90
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

The highly innovative Joe Grilli makes his iconic Moda Cabernet Merlot in the Italian Amarone style. After harvest the grapes are air dried on outdoor racks (for around 2 weeks) to increase skin to juice ratio, concentrating the flavours in an almost raisined fashion. The resulting wine is a lusciously rich, ripe dry red which seems to overcome difficult seasons with absolute ease. Just ask popular UK critic Oz Clarke, who recently named Joseph's Moda as the world's second best wine!

In tune with other Moda wines, the 2008 is aromatically deeper than a rabbit's hole. Its typically moreish, ultra-ripe raisin, chocolate and leather aromas have already set themselves in for the long haul, while drier, dusty notes of tobacco and herb straddle the higher tones as an essential counter balance to the smooth richness residing beneath. The palate manages to be extravagantly luscious, smooth and rich without being heavy, jammy or offensively ripe whatsoever. Then considering its generous proportions, it's amazingly balanced and even, saturating the palate from front to back, as lingering touches of tobacco leaf and incredibly polished and smooth, powdery tannins ride like surfboards along its tidal wave of massively deep, dense flavour. It isn't exactly the medium-bodied, elegant cabernet many Australians are looking for, but it's near impossible not to be impressed.

ü+ The 2008 continues a run of consistently delicious Moda wines from up-and-down McLaren Vale cabernet vintages. How does Joe Grilli do it, and why aren't there more imitators? There may be nothing plain about Moda, but it's just plain yum. Drink to 2024.
95 points


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

GROSSET SEMILLON SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010

- Clare Valley/Adelaide Hills, SA
- $25-$36
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

When everything falls into place for Jeffrey Grosset, there's practically no other South Australian sem/sav to compare with his blend of Clare Valley semillon and Adelaide Hills sauvignon blanc. Although the last two releases weren't quite on the money for me (2008-89pts and 2009-89pts), the 2007 (92pts) was right on the mark.

The delicately scented nose of Grosset's 2010 shows some distinct young semillon character upfront; nettles, lemon/citrus and maybe some straw initially, with a more subdued influence of sauvignon blanc cut grass and tinned fruit tip-toeing throughout its bouquet to create a convincing balance of the two varieties, which should work for the anti-savvy crowd. Likewise, its crystal-clear palate reveals a proud semillon component that speaks slightly above its sauvignon blanc, as its savvy imprint is expressed more through a faintly juicy, slip 'n' slide mouthfeel, as opposed to pungent tropical fruit flavour. Its flavour profile resembles lemon curd, mineral, tinned lychees and pineapple, but flavour expression is hardly its high point. To finish off, Grosset's classy acidity springs forth with shape, thrust and genuine zip to punctuate, highlight and refresh the palate.

O If I'm right it's been roughly 20 years since Grosset released a straight semillon. Now I'm no hater of savvy styles, because I find Grosset's 2010 Sem/Sav to be a good, clean, flow down like water off a duck's back kind of wine, but after having sampled delightful, oaked Clare Valley semillons from the likes of Mitchell, Tim Adams and Mount Horrocks across the last few years, my desire to see Grosset join (or top) their ranks only grows. Drink to 2013.
90 points


TRUE WINE STORIES: THE WANNABE WINEMAKER WHO WOULDN'T DRINK WINE

My pursuit of fine wine and the understanding of it has led me to meet some interesting people over the years. One person whom I'll never forget was a middle-aged, blonde woman (name unknown) who studied the same basic wine evaluation course as I did several years ago.

The funny thing was, she didn't actually drink wine. Not a drop.

This fact shockingly came to my attention (as well as the rest of my class) in the first 'true' tasting class of the course, when, with six sample pours of white wine placed in front of every student for assessment, our wine lecturer asked her what she felt of a certain wine's palate;

"I'm unsure." She said. "I don't actually drink wine."

To which, the lecturer responded with; "If you don't drink wine, what are you doing in a wine tasting course?"

"I want to become a winemaker." She replied. At this point the class became somewhat baffled, but the lecturer was becoming frustrated with sheer disbelief.

So the lecturer confronted her with; "How are you going to become a winemaker if you don't drink wine?"

"I just smell them." She quipped.

Now exceptionally puzzled, the lecturer told her; "You can't become a winemaker by just smelling wines. You HAVE to drink the stuff too. Now come on, stop being ridiculous and drink the damn wine!"

But she refused. The more he tried to get her to drink the wine, the more she refused. Eventually, the lecturer gave in, but he did end with; "Just see me after class, okay?" Now I'm not entirely sure what he said to her after class, but rest assured, she didn't return to any more wine tasting classes after her initial effort.

True story.

A wannabe winemaker attending a wine tasting course, who doesn't drink wine; just sniffs it. I've always wondered how her aspirations of becoming a winemaker have progressed since....