From word-go I was impressed with the set up of Winestate's 'Wine of the Year' tasting. The National Wine Centre's main function room is a large, spacious, clean and modern room perfect for such events, which really, one should expect given the venue's name. Over 400+ wines were arranged around the edges of the room, with a single bottle of each, set up in the 'pour yourself' format (no sales or marketing people) and perfectly ordered in a counter-clockwise fashion from the right of the room's entranceway; from sparkling whites to light whites to fuller whites to light reds to heavy reds and so on.
Unfortunately what this meant for me was, that, as I was tasting my way around the room in an orderly manner from the right-hand side, most other consumers were heading left in a direction pointed straight at all the night's big blockbuster names. So as I was sampling sparkling whites, semillon and pinot gris, others were helping themselves to full glasses of flagship shiraz, pinot noir and chardonnay, to enjoy with the complementary cheese plates. Obviously, numerous icons which were on the tasting list, were absent by the time I worked my way around to the reds. Still, if you pay the $60 door charge to enter such an event, you might as well drink whatever the hell you want, when you want I reckon!
The most disappointing result of this outcome was that when I arrived at the pinot noir table, of the 30 or so wines that remained, only 1 was Australian (Giant Steps' 2008 Sexton) with the rest being from NZ. The regularity of Kiwi pinots at events such as this in Australia is an issue I'll probably have to cover another time...
Anyway, after having said all this, I did still get to taste some fantastic wines (particularly early in the night), so here are my tasting notes. My favourite aspect of the tasting was the lack of dominance of South Australian wines (which is rare in Adelaide). So as you'll see from my notes, I did get to taste a good cross section of Australia's wines, stretching right across our country's regions (and yes, even into Queensland!).
And one final thing; a big THANK YOU to the illustrious Andrew Graham for sending the tickets down to Adelaide; cheers mate!
Clover Hill 2005 Pipers River, TAS. Back in form with a very fresh, sweet white bread, white nectarine, grapefruit and white nougat nose. White and sweet, fresh and nice. Palate shows some tartish, zingy citric acids of great intensity, which wrap around its proud, mouthfilling flavour and creamy texture. Best since '01. 91
Jansz Late Disgorged Cuvee 2002 Northern Tasmania. One of the night's real highlights. Very inviting nose; crisp white bread/brioche and grapefruit. Touch of honey, superb freshness and vitality for its age. Its creamy white flower flavours are driven by a distinctive line of zingy grapefruit-like acids to great effect. Tight and fresh. Exceptional bead and effervescence. I'll be hunting some down for sure. 95
Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2004 Lower Hunter Valley, NSW. Another of the night's highlights. Big, zingy ping of lively citrus aromas uplifted by toast and lime. Great intensity. Its palate is deceptively smooth, buttery and round on entry, with a very clean and clear, youthful flavour profile. Assertive, chiselled, crystalline acidity to finish. In a line-up like this it's easy to see why Vat 1 amasses more medals than an Australian swim team at the Commonwealth games. 95
Peter Lehmann Margaret Semillon 2005 Barossa Valley, SA. More pungent, rubbery/melon aromas than usual, with lashings of honeyed/waxy development. Rich, ripe, round palate with softer, creamier acids than the first 3 Margarets. It's not the label's best wine but it's still a good shorter term drinker, and of course, a damn fine Barossa semillon. 92
Spring Vale Pinot Gris 2010 East Coast Tasmania. Beautiful, very clean pear skin and white apple nose. It's a big gris in the mouth, with smooth, rich and mouthfilling flavours framed by slightly, somewhat chunky broad acids. If the acids were just a fraction more entwined it would rate even higher from me, because I was smitten with its aroma profile. 89
Seppelt Drumborg Riesling 2010 Henty, VIC. Wine of the night for me. It's youthful on the nose, yet sheer riesling perfume. Exceptionally clean white flower, mineral and wet pebble nose with a touch of citrus blossom more evident on my second sampling at the end of the night. Superb. The palate is all about length, clarity and persistence, with an almost never-ending length. Spectacular shape and austerity as well. 96
Howard Park Museum Release Riesling 2006 Great Southern, WA. I didn't even know Howard Park made a Museum Release Riesling, but as I loved the '06 several years ago (95pts), here's probably a good place to start. Shows some creamy, buttery character on the nose with lemon cake and lime marmalade. Still very fresh. A good side-splitting acidity hits its straps alongside youthful lemon/mineral/grapefruit flavours. Will live for some time yet. 95
Leo Buring Mature Release Watervale Leonay Riesling 2005 Clare Valley, SA. Intense flinty fragrance with restrained varietal citrus fruits beneath. Showing some signs of adolescence, with a touch of smoothness to its acidity and kero notes to finish, but still relatively primary up front. I'd give it another 2-5 years to balance. 90
McGuigan Shortlist Riesling 2004 Eden Valley, SA. Normally the sort of thing I'd look past (especially given the rather ubiquitous labelling) but I've read some good things so I thought I'd dive in. Slightly developed colour, and the most developed (and oldest) of the 3 older rieslings mentioned here, but also the one that's closest to its peak. It has pronounced features of toast, lime, flint and kero, with a rather oily, viscous palate that happily ends with tight, grippy acids. Ready to enjoy now. 92
Sirromet Seven Scenes Chardonnay 2009 Granite Belt, QLD. I just couldn't resist my first opportunity to sample Queensland wine in over 2 years, but apparently I was the only one, as the level of wine in the bottle I picked up was up to the thread. Sweet vanilla oak and burnt toffee, almost confection/bubble gum-like to the nose, with ripe scents of paw-paw and fig, yet still, it's quite attractive and open. Palate disappoints with a round, forward expression that lacks refreshing acidity and structure. Even then, I hope it's not another 2 years before I supple upon another Queensland vino. Sigh. 85
Toolangi Estate Chardonnay 2006 Yarra Valley, VIC. Straight up toffee nose. Bold, brassy palate finishes rather dry and awkward. I expected more. 86
Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 Yarra Valley, VIC. Very clean, classic cool-climate refinement to mineral, white nectarine, grapefruit and fresh oak. Precise balance. Smooth, spotless and stylish, its clean, juicy palate finishes with an emerging hint of funky fruit and leesy/yeasty notes. A wonderful Yarra chardonnay at a great price too. 93
Plantagenet Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Mount Barker, WA. I've long believed Plantagenet to be a spectacular maker of Western Australian shiraz, but a much less consistent producer of cabernet sauvignon. After the '07 cabernet, my opinion remains the same. Its nose is very unconvincing, there's an element of savoury earth, but some stewy fruit lies beneath and it's a bit pongy at that. The palate is smooth and syrupy, a bit hollow, but an improvement in integration over the nose. Slightly dry/green edged to finish. 88
Peccavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Margaret River, WA. My first Peccavi Cabernet Sauvignon after I have enjoyed their chardonnay previously, but now, I'm not sure which variety the winery does better. It has wonderful minty/herbal/leafy accents to its dusty forest berry fruits and charry oak. Top regional expression. Its palate is medium weight, luscious, fresh and elegantly balanced with a silky texture. A bit more length and structure would've really set things flying here, but it still finishes with wonderfully persistent minty/berry flavours. Although this was my pick of the night's reds, I hear the 2008 is even better...94
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Margaret River, WA. Intense nose. Powerful, uplifting leafy/herbal aromas overlie clean berry fruits and a touch of tobacco. Its palate is smooth and rich to begin but very dry and prickly to finish, with a chalky tannin extract. Shows pleasing mocha/ground coffee-like oak. Much better than the '07, now why haven't I bought any of this yet? 92
Flametree Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Margaret River, WA. Strong, perfumed, fragrant toasty chocolate oak smothers its dark plum and cassis aromas somewhat, alongside a hint of menthol. All-up its regional expression is nowhere near as clear as the previous 2 wines mentioned. Shows a smooth, rich, ultra-ripe and concentrated Margaret River cabernet palate. It's a bit of a bruiser really, ending warm with touches of currant and ripe tannins. 88
d'Arenberg The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 McLaren Vale, SA. Surprisingly fragrant and even for the vintage, with classy cedar/vanilla oak notes talking alongside mint and pastille blackcurrants. Slightly jammy and essence-like, medium-bodied palate finishes very long and dry with a mouthfilling climax. A good surprise. 91
Bowen Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Coonawarra, SA. Distinctly different aroma to what I've come to expect from this maker lately. It displays more mint than anticipated, with bright red/black berries and vanilla oak. The palate lets me down though, by dropping away quite fast and then revealing dehydrated aspects. 86
Blue Pyrenees Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Pyrenees, VIC. I finally got myself around to trying this show winner. Very rich and ripe (not over) juicy fruit nose, with abundant fruit and oak. A real crowd pleasing style. It contains smooth and dark, almost creamy blackcurrant and dark plum flavours with a beautifully precise, drying finish tightened up by fine tannins, but I detect a faint hint of rawness that prevents this from being a near-perfect all-rounder cabernet. 91
Blue Pyrenees Estate Reserve Shiraz 2006 Pyrenees, VIC. Nice whiff of regional mint/eucalypt, probably more eucalypt, with red plums and black berries. In fact it's a good regional expression throughout. It's rather richly flavoured, ripe and weighty, with vanilla/cedar oak, fine-grained tannins and dry eucalyptus notes combining to deliver a satisfyingly dry finish. It's particularly smooth, polished and well made, but a bit more rustic 'edginess' would've made it outstanding. 91
Feet First Shiraz 2008 Frankland River, WA. A Winestae 5 star wine. Gritty, gravelly nose beset with earth and damp soils overlying redcurrant/red plum and vanilla. Barely medium in weight with prickly tannins, its palate just lacks concentration and conviction. 88
Warrenmang Estate Shiraz 2007 Pyrenees, VIC. Warm nose. Rich, ripe fruit and menthol with touches of baked fruit/fruitcake. Thick and treacle-like, its concentrated palate shows a touch of tar to its dark fruit, but manages to handle its richness and alcoholic warmth to some extent. 90
Fox Creek Short Row Shiraz 2008 McLaren Vale, SA. Well composed nose for this hot season. No dead fruit but plenty of regional quality in the way of dark berry and plum fruits with vanilla/chocolate oak and perhaps even a touch of cinnamon. Smooth, rich and ripe palate is pleasingly aided by vanilla oak, but a hint of ultra-ripe currant flavour robs it of a little length. It still drinks well, and Fox Creek fans (like me) could finally have something to look forward to....89
Tyrrell's Vat 8 Shiraz 2007 Lower Hunter Valley, NSW. Pleasing regional earth and pencil shavings-like nose to juicy plum fruits. It's a very elegant, clean Hunter style with great persistence of even flavour, showing savoury accents to earthy/meaty red fruits and a hint of spice to finish. It seems a very natural wine and one that's all too easy to drink. 92
Howard Park Scotsdale Shiraz 2008 Great Southern, WA. Lifted jujube/berry fruit nose announces itself in a riper Great Southern style, but it's more even than some recent outings from this label. Its elegant, silky palate ends with a tickly line of faint tannins and drying, raw cedar oak. Not bad. 90
Capel Vale Shiraz 2008 Mount Barker, WA. Vanilla oak and dark plum nose. Smooth and ripe, but somewhat hollow and short. Ends slightly awkward, tart and raw. 87