Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DEVIL'S CORNER SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010

- Tasmania
- $12-$20
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

The second label of Tamar Ridge, Devil's Corner, would have to be one of the cheapest ranges of Tasmanian wine around. The consumer friendly sauvignon blanc is one wine in the Devil's Corner collection capable of over delivering, as proven by the refreshingly herbal and zesty 2008 (90pts).

Quite pungent and openly aromatic, the 2010 Devil's Corner is no shy savvy. It's loaded with with a strong, vegetative fragrance of freshly cut herbs/grass, capsicum and pea that may verge on cat pee-like, while aromas of rockmelon and spiced apple provide a welcomed base of clean fruit. There's a fair lick of length to the palate, which pushes through its lemon infused melon and apple flavours with agreeable thrust, cleanliness and an undertone of cut grass that persists throughout, but the wine lacks anything texturally or structurally exciting, so it's hardly an unwooded sauvignon blanc of rare pedigree. Having said that, it is fresh, well driven, intensely varietal and easy to drink in a simplistic fashion, so it should impress within the right circles. The price is right too.

O The 2010 Devil's Corner makes a wonderful alternative to addicts of Kiwi sauvignon blanc, but not too much more than that. A pub drinker's special. Not bad. Drink now.
89 points


MARKETING BOUTIQUE BEER TO THE DISCERNING WINE DRINKER

Now I'm just waiting for the wine that claims to be the
'Low-Carb Beer of wines!'
:)


Saturday, May 28, 2011

OZ WINE TOONS




BROKENWOOD HUNTER VALLEY SHIRAZ 2007

- Lower Hunter Valley, NSW
- $29-$42
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

I recall an old wine saying that goes; 'the Hunter Valley produces Australia's best shiraz, but only once every 20 years.' Given some favourable recent vintages (2007 in particular), growing consumer enthusiasm for the style and the Hunter's current crop of talented winemakers, I think we could safely reduce that figure now.

Oh yeah; perfectly even, ripe, simultaneously bright and savoury, Brokenwood's 2007 Shiraz throws up a handsome swagger of dry scents initially; pencil shavings and multi-faceted cedar/vanilla/chocolate oak, with an extremely attractive core of leather-edged, juicy red and blackcurrants and licorice pumping up the attraction even more. It smells of wicked, bright and ripe Hunter shiraz, but the palate takes things up a notch again. It drives a near perfect, direct line of classically elegant, medium-weighted regional flavours, balancing bright, juicy berries and red plums with earth, licorice and a hint of leather, before a long, dry, truly fine finish continues the vibrant display with a lithe acidity and lingering savoury/smoky aspects. From first sniff to lively aftertaste, its composition is superb.

ü+ Just a brilliantly styled Hunter Valley shiraz, particularly considering its price. I'm already planning my next trip to the bottle shop to buy out their remaining stocks. Drink to 2022.
95 points


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CORIOLE VITA RESERVE SANGIOVESE 2007

- McLaren Vale, SA
- $50
- Cork
- 13.5%alc

With plantings dating back to 1985, Coriole has been a pioneer of Australian sangiovese. As the vines have matured, recent Coriole Sangioveses have seemingly gone from strength to strength, to the point where, Coriole has now released a reserve level wine destined to join the ranks of Australia's new varietal benchmarks (which Coriole Sangiovese kinda was anyway).

From a hot, dry vintage, Coriole has fashioned a sangiovese that's lifted out of the glass by a fresh, minty fragrance, but underneath it's very rustic and savoury, with robust smatterings of scorched earth, leather and cherries co-existing with chocolate/cedar oak, to deliver a splendid nose loaded with character and complexity. Medium-bodied and silky to commence, the palate reveals a brightness of varietally correct savoury cherry flavour that's hard to resist, particularly with a lick of chocolate providing a delicious undercarriage, but the palate's most defining feature would have to be its seriously imposing structure, the likes of which I've never seen from Coriole. Even at 4 years old it's powerfully firm, drying and expansive, with coarse, chalky tannins and sour-edged acidity chiselling out a long lasting, mouth puckering and slightly astringent finish. Its grip definitely reflects the vintage, although its deliciously ripened fruit might not. Perfect really.

ü+ Powerful, firm, rustic and bright, and certainly handling its difficult season with aplomb, the 2007 Vita Reserve is a much more serious, possibly more masculine proposition than the standard Coriole Sangiovese. It's obviously urging for a stint in the cellar, from which it should emerge a most spectacular expression of an Australian Italianette. Alternatively, just present it around a lunchtime feast. Drink 2015-2020.
94 points


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

MORRIS DURIF 2007

- Rutherglen, VIC
- $20-$29
- Screwcap
- 14.5%alc

Given the rather heavy hitting, long living wines made from durif in Victoria's Rutherglen region, it makes me wonder why there aren't more examples of the variety from South Australia's warmer districts. Morris has really nailed the style over the years, gifting us firm, robust, weighty, classically Australian reds, sold at a wonderful price to the consumer.

Richly scented and profoundly deep for its price, the 2007 Morris Durif displays a beautifully even, heady fragrance combining dark aromatic character with bright expression. Shiraz-like dark plums and berries, choc-raisins/licorice and a peppery hint of dry roast meats live it up in the nose, while a gentle whiff of chocolate/vanilla oak provides no more than a backing role, allowing its vivid fruit to power through. The palate begins with a similarly bright, generously weighted mouthful of ripe plums and berries, before its nature becomes much more rustic as it progresses, in both taste and feel. Advancing and containing its well measured richness is a powerfully dry, intensely tannic and hard-boned structure, that should take years to settle into its substantial fruit base. Basically, this is what top quality durif is all about for me; impact and age-worthiness. Just strap yourself in and feel the G's!

ü+ A classic Rutherglen durif, that's hard to split from Morris's magnificent 2004 (94pts). However, unlike the 2004, the 2007 is sealed with a screwcap, so you can cellar with complete confidence. Awesome. Drink to 2025.
93 points


Sunday, May 22, 2011

TAHBILK MARSANNE 2010

- Nagambie Lakes, VIC
- $11-$19
- Screwcap
- 12.5%alc

Australia boasts a range of committed producers who focus on certain 'alternative' varieties with the respect one normally reserves for gemstones, when others might simply pass them off as grapes. Think Yalumba and viognier, Pirramimma and petit verdot, d'Arenberg and grenache, and of course, Tahbilk and marsanne.

Cleanly scented and youthful, Tahbilk's 2010 reveals a pleasing, well defined fragrance for such a young marsanne, which really, one should expect from Australia's specialist maker of the variety. There are notes of stonefruit kernel/almond and gentle spice apparent, giving a vibrant, genuinely varietal edge to its more obvious scent of freshly picked lemons, with a minor trace of mineral residing throughout. By delivering its squeaky clean lemon and stonefruit kernel flavours in a surprisingly sumptuous, practically medium-full bodied sense, the palate also reflects a relatively assertive, character laden expression of a young Tahbilk Marsanne. Thankfully, the finish bares the structure and drive to balance everything out, as the whole package is wrapped up nicely by an agreeable phenolic note and chalky, drying acids, which merge eloquently alongside persisting notes of citrus and stonefruit kernel to drag out a long, brightly lit and assertive finish.

ü+ I'm really liking this Tahbilk Marsanne, which has a real, punchy presence of varietal character backed up by a classically Tahbilk structure. I guess I better make room in the cellar then, to do future Chris a favour. Drink to 2020.
91 points


MITCHELTON BLACKWOOD PARK RIESLING 2010

- Central Victoria
- $13-$21
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

Victorian wine regions are truly blessed when it comes to delicious chardonnay, pinot noir, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon, but when the drink turns to riesling, Victoria's reputation isn't quite as lofty as others. There is however, a diverse group of standout Victorian rieslings from various regions, covering both high (for riesling) and low price points. Mitchelton's Blackwood Park falls into the latter of these two categories.

There are floral aromas of honeysuckle and jasmine emerging from Mitchelton's 2010 Blackwood Park, with a lightly candied influence of lemon and lime citrus providing sufficient, if slightly sweet varietal punch. Rather broad and sour, the palate presents some slightly spiky, edgy, viscous flavours of honeyed citrus and toast, drawn down the mouth by sweet 'n' sour acids and a penetrative note of lime juice. It's okay if a tad awkward right now, but it's far from an inspirational riesling, even at its modest price.

O I've always considered Mitchelton's Blackwood Park to be a good, consistent riesling (certainly capable of cellaring too), which doesn't really scale the heights of excellence. The 2010 hasn't changed my opinion. Drink 2014-2017.
88 points


Friday, May 20, 2011

WANT

Kitty might want a partner to mate with, but he definitely wants food. Meanwhile, my own list of wants is far more complex and much less driven by a simple need to survive.

As a passionate consumer of Australian wine, what I want is for Australian wine to be more popular, but more importantly, to be understood better by the masses who drink it.

But how?

What I want is for Australian wine to get a small sip of the gigantic cup of television coverage currently being beer-bonged down by the food industry.

Sure, Australian wine has had recent spells on TV - Wine Lover's Guide to Australia and Wine Squad come to mind - two shows which are all good and interesting if you're a wine fanatic, but rather useless if you aren't. I mean, if I rocked up to a mate's place with a nice bottle of red and a DVD box-set of Wine Lover's Guide to Australia, I wouldn't be allowed anywhere near the DVD player, but they'd still drink my wine.

What I want to see is an Australian wine show which is entertaining first, and informative second. It could be fictional even.

What immediately jumps out to me is the feature film Sideways. Sideways was a fictional movie, doubtlessly entertaining (even I enjoyed it and I generally hate 21st century Hollywood cinema), about two guys who take some time off to go and cruise up to California's wine country for a bit of wine drinking related malarkey. As wine lovers, we've all been there. The combination of the two main characters - one wine savvy and the other not - made for some interesting viewing, with subtle bits of wine information littered throughout the film, within the dialogue. Just look at what a little information, delivered to the public through an entertaining format, did for merlot's credibility. Some might say Sideways 'killed' merlot in some respects. Imagine what the reverse of this effect could do.

Oz Clarke and James May have provided a similarly styled duo of wine expert and wine beginner, in their Big Wine Adventures, which has gone on to become a reasonable success, by successfully combining entertainment with information. Unfortunately, although aired in a prime time spot by SBS, the show has so far only promoted French, American and English wine, not Australian. But as Australians, we can not sit around and wait for the English or Americans to come up with a show promoting our wine. It must be done by ourselves.

The Australian shows I mentioned previously definitively fall under the informative first, entertaining second category (my apologies to Big Blind Mike!), which essentially makes them quite dull to your 'average' wine drinker without industry experience or a 1000 bottle cellar. The internet video clips of people sitting around assessing wine are also unlikely to appeal to an audience outside of wine circles; just as this blog.

What I would love to see, is an Australian wine related sitcom (do Australians even make sitcoms anymore?). It could possibly be set in a cellar door, or winery, or somewhere similar. It would be funny, entertaining, and drop subtle hints of wine information in amongst the comedic madness. The show would revolve around character development and character interaction (a bit of slapstick, smut and old-fashioned prop comedy goes a long way in my eyes too!), but there'd be enough there to keep the wine savvy continuously tuning in for a laugh, alongside the non-wine loving viewer, whom hopefully, might learn a few things along the way.

It's just something I want.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

YALUMBA VINTAGE PORT 1969

- Barossa Valley/South Australia?
- $50-$60 (Auction)
- Cork
- Alcohol not stated

Australia has a long, rich history of fortified wine production, written into the books by brands who now reside as household names. Old Ports from Hardys, Penfolds, Seppeltsfield and Yalumba still hold their presence on the secondary market, but more importantly, they constitute a living, drinkable memory of Australia's wine past.

It's slightly unnerving drinking a wine that's older than you. It's kinda like drinking your dad; with respect. When opened and ready to go, this 42 year old Vintage Port presents warm and inviting, if piercing and vaporous scents, with an air of sharp volatility providing an aerial kick to its deeper set notes of raisin dominated, spicy fruitcake with cranberries and crushed nuts. Oh yeah, there's alcohol aplenty in there as well. Its wonderfully captivating palate presents an unsurprisingly rich array of honeyed fruitcake flavours, held into place by an ever present aura of spiky, warming spirit, that sets itself in from first touch and never lets go, before revealing hints of green olive and oily nuts in its spirit infused, rather sticky climax.

ü There's so much to appreciate about drinking a 42 year old bottle of wine, that scoring it almost seems inappropriate. Realistically, I don't see any reason why the 1969 Yalumba Vintage Port wouldn't last another 10 or 20 years, but I'd drink to that! Drink to 2019.
90 points


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ASHTON HILLS ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2009

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

For a number of reasons, Ashton Hills is a winery I hold a serious amount of respect for. One of my favourite little touches is Ashton Hills' informative label texts, which actually change every vintage. The 2009 Estate Pinot Noir reads; 'Overall Pinot quality in 2009 was so good that all 18 of our clones (selections), instead of the usual handful, made the grade for this Estate wine. One third of the grapes were uncrushed, adding to the wine's complexity, structure and interest.'

Distinctly darkly coloured by Ashton Hills standards, the 2009 Estate essentially matches its appearance with a dark fruited, somewhat raisiny and rather ripe fragrance scented with herbs/menthol and suggestions of stewed pinot fruit character. Its aroma lacks lift, perfume and elegance, but perhaps most disappointing for the style, is a hint of alcoholic warmth that pokes through. The palate regains some credibility thanks to the typically silky, supple qualities associated with Ashton Hills pinot noir, as clever winemaking has imparted reasonable balance and a degree of elegance, but the 2009 remains much riper and conversely darker fruited than the label's better wines. A herbal note emerges in its finish, contrasting the riper front palate, but regrettably, there's also a slightly rough-edged feel emanating through some fairly grippy tannins.

X As a pinot noir I'm not totally convinced by this, which is a feeling I don't usually associate with Ashton Hills. Unfortunately, the 2009 Estate is the type of pinot I'd be happy paying $20-$25 for. Drink to 2014.
89 points

Monday, May 16, 2011

BANNOCKBURN SERRÉ PINOT NOIR 1998

- Geelong, VIC
- $120
- Cork
- 13.5%alc

As a (terribly) general rule of thumb, I'd put most good Australian pinot noir within an 8 year cellaring bracket, with the odd standout drinking well at 10 or 12, and the occasional, welcomed freak going beyond that even. Screwcaps may well prove me wrong though. The 1998 Serre represents Bannockburn's finest efforts with the variety, from a period when the winery was performing exceptionally well. Even then, I'm still holding my fingers crossed on this 13 year old Australian pinot noir.

Defined by savoury scents of brown leaf litter, damp, earthy soils, light spices and gentle aniseed, Bannockburn's 1998 Serre has bid farewell to its primary fruit aromas, although it still rises from the glass with vitality, fragrant lift and an ever present hint of dry cedar. In the mouth it's luxuriously silky, sensual, gentle in its weight and understated in its entry. The palate then follows through with a powerfully sour-edged extract of cherry, earth and tea leaf-like flavour, becoming more intensely acidic and sour-edged as it progresses into a very long, fine and ultimately dry finish, that does reveal complex and savoury, if faint touches of fennel, spice and tea leaf character, with essentially little or no tannin influence.

O Very good and holding up particularly well for a teenage Australian pinot noir, but I suspect the 1998 Serre might've been a better prospect around 3 years ago. Drink now.
92 points


Friday, May 13, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

BANNOCKBURN STUART PINOT (NOIR) 2008

- Geelong, VIC
- $57-$75
- Cork
- 13.0%alc

Over recent years I've held my reservations with Bannockburn Pinot Noir, however, the quality of Michael Glover's 2008 Chardonnay (94pts), in cohesion with an anonymous tip on this website, tells me 2008 might not be a bad time to revisit one of Australia's most decorated makers of pinot noir. After all, my opinions are only ever there to be changed.

After some of my more recent encounters with Bannockburn Pinot Noir, I was delighted to remove an exceptionally clean cork from the 2008 Stuart. Following that delight (and a spell in a decanter) came feelings of confusion and intrigue, as I edged my nose into an intense fragrance marked strongly by scents I could only describe as smoky and tinned corn-like. The corn note does integrate with time, allowing more orthodox pinot aromas of succulent red cherries and cranberry to come forward, with further suggestions of smoky bacon-like oak and a dumping of leaf litter. It's certainly more complex on the nose than it is rich or deep. Light, silky and airy, with a gentile movement, the palate presents herbal, sour-edged small red fruits up front, before revealing a smoky aspect that truly transforms its delivery of bright fruit to the back palate. Structurally, it's refreshingly acidic and quite welcoming, if somewhat lacking in aggressive intensity or chiselled definition, but once again, like the nose, I hold a question over the palate's depth. To think positively though, I must say it's undeniably complex and it just might improve with a touch more time.

O Much like the 2010 pinots of a certain Adelaide Hills producer, I can see the 2008 Stuart dividing opinion. It's undoubtedly complex, fragrant, textured and varietal, but it clearly lacks wow factor at its RRP for me. Drink 2013 to 2014.
90 points


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

BAY OF FIRES RIESLING 2010

- Derwent River Valley/Coal River Valley, TAS
- $21-$32
- Screwcap
- 12.0%alc

Bay of Fires may be one of Tasmania's best makers of pinot noir and chardonnay, but when it comes to riesling, I feel the corporately owned brand falls behind the likes of Freycinet and Pipers Brook, who admittedly, source their riesling from completely different parts of the state (hint hint towards the more specific regional labelling of Tasmanian wine).

There's a pleasingly flinty, lightly spicy fragrance of crisp apples, white fruit and citrus pith emanating from Bay of Fires' 2010 Riesling, which opens to a moderately juicy, flavoursome palate characterised by white pears, commercial grade apple juice and a brittle, zesty acidity reminiscent of lemon/lime sherbet. I mention commercial grade apple juice because I detect a faint sweetness to its fruit flavour, but it's far from overwhelming, whilst it actually bodes quite well with a relatively tangy, lively finish.

O From one of the state's biggest names comes this Tasmanian riesling with plenty of crossover appeal. However, I'd be interested to know how many consumers (re-?) discovering riesling would be willing to fork out $25 or $30 for a wine from Tasmania, when there's so many alternatives available from the Clare and Eden Valleys for less. Drink to 2015.
90 points


Monday, May 9, 2011

PENFOLDS THOMAS HYLAND CHARDONNAY 2010

- South Australia
- $13-$22
- Screwcap
- 13.0%alc

If someone had told me 5 years ago I'd be calling chardonnay Penfolds' most consistent performer in 2011, I might've told them to go jump in a lake of Bin 65. Of particular merit is Penfolds' recent efforts with the lower end Thomas Hyland, which now makes a serious claim to being Australia's most reliable (mass-market) $15 chardonnay.

Not sure why Thomas Hyland Chardonnay has replaced the words 'Cool Climate' with 'Adelaide' on the front label (Hills fruit mainly?), but it still shows plenty of bang for your buck, with its winemaker derived creamed hazelnut and soft vanilla oak aromas mixing it up nicely with tickles of grapefruit and spice, in an ably balanced, rich, bright and crisp style. It's ultra clean and clear in the mouth, revealing true mineral refinement for the dollar, however, there's also a lovely undertone of yeasty/leesy characters providing ample richness and flavour to its creamy palate, which is driven pleasingly long by a bright spark of finely honed in, tangy, perhaps pineapple-like acidity, reflecting all the winemaking polish you'd expect from a modern Penfolds chardonnay.

ü+ Another step up from what must be one of Penfolds' under recognised, yet ever improving labels. You'd be very hard pressed to beat this for a $14 Australian chardonnay at a supermarket chain. Drink to 2014.
91 points


Friday, May 6, 2011

PENFOLDS GRANGE 2006

- South Australia
- $550-$660
- Cork
- 14.5%alc

Off the back of two spectacular releases from 2002 (97pts) and 2004 (98pts), I rate Grange custodian Peter Gago highly for his achievements with Grange thus far. The current vintage, 2006, might not be from as fancied a shiraz vintage as the previous two wines mentioned, but it was a good year nonetheless, and I feel its seasonal conditions might just of suited the 'Grange style' even better.

Perhaps constricted at first, the 2006 Grange swirls open with a bit of air, revealing a tightly knit scent of very fine-grained, lightly spicy cedar/mocha oak, pumped up by an impressively deep, complex array of Barossa shiraz character. Aromas of licorice, earth, dark plums and berries, roast meats, white pepper, cherry cola and sarsaparilla maybe, all emerge in the display, but its character laden fragrance is ultimately even and terribly inviting, with not a hair out of place. Initially, it enters the palate in a surprisingly silky, sensuous manner, before a downright authoritative tannin structure takes shape. Growing waves of ultra-fine, powdery tannins ensconce its youthful Grange notes of dark berries, soy, licorice and nutty/chocolate oak, with a refreshing hit of sour-edged fruit rearing its head towards the finish. It's uncompromisingly deep yet practically medium-bodied, proving itself surprisingly elegant, drinkable and just so, so balanced. Its 'fanned-out', 'peacock's tail' of a finish remains the most defining feature, but then there's the harmony and guaranteed longevity...

ü The 2006 Grange is one of the most balanced expressions of South Australian shiraz you could imagine, but clearly, its best years are yet to come. That isn't to say it isn't drinking well now, because it possesses a sensuous, medium weighted feel and ultra, ultra-fine tannin structure, combining to make it an incredible (and expensive) temptation. Just chalk up another one for Mr Gago. Drink to 2046.
97 points


PENFOLDS 2011 ICON AND LUXURY RELEASE

If you're ever around Adelaide come Grange release day, I'd wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Magill Estate. There's an air of festivity and excitement around Penfolds on Grange release day, like a child (or the next king?) has just been born. Everyone's happy and everyone has something to say.

Sure, Penfolds charge $25 for a tasting of Grange, when the major retailers offer free samplings to mark the occasion, but the samples offered by the retailers look rather pathetic compared to what you get at Magill - I swear I almost accidentally inhaled one of those store issued Grange samples once. Up at Penfolds, 'half a glass' might be doing an injustice to the generous pours dished out by their ever friendly cellar door staff. It's $25 well spent if you ask me, and I look forward to it lightening my wallet every year.

Additionally, if you get to Penfolds later in the day, you'll find no crowds, no lines, a relaxed atmosphere, wines served in Riedels and service with a smile. It's much better than fighting 150 people for 100 pours, all at once.

Oh yeah, there's also another $790 worth of wine, across 6 bottles, available to taste on the day, completely free of charge. Just keep an eye on the cellar door prices here though, because RRP isn't exactly 'recommended' for Penfolds. You might have heard of these other labels...

Penfolds tasting notes are posted below

Penfolds Reserve Bin 09A Chardonnay 2009 ($90) Adelaide Hills. Wow! Toasty, toasty, toasty nose! Smoky popcorn-like oak and touches of spice dominate the nose, with a minimal fruit profile. It's an ultimately lean, restrained and texture driven palate, with touches of citrus, minerals and spice, with a tightening finish. Given the spectacular results of the previous two vintages, I just expected something a little more sumptuously fruited. 92

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2008 ($130) Tasmania/Adelaide Hills. Simultaneously pungent and restrained on the nose, seemingly the result of some beautifully clean, cool climate fruit - minerals, grapefruit and light spice. The palate however, can't be mistaken, it's rich, round, full, creamy and sumptuous to drink, with delicious creamed hazelnut and white peach flavours marked by a notably tangy finish. 94

Penfolds St Henri Shiraz 2007 ($90) From a low yielding vintage, a veritable who's who of South Australian regions went into this one; check - Robe (30%), McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Padthaway, Barossa Valley, Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills. Bright, sour-edged red plums, cherries, blueberries and white pepper on the nose, in St Henri's typically fruit expressive style, but it just seems a bit simple, lacking the depth and complexity of the top vintages. Its palate is also slightly unusual, young and elemental perhaps? It's brightly flavoured and sour-edged, but it's also a bit jammy, without being over ripe. It drinks alright in a simpler fashion, but at this price, I can't say I'm totally convinced. 90

Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2008 ($115) Adelaide Metro - $15 price hike. Although not particularly lively on the nose, there appears to be a concentration of good fruit - condensed cassis, cherries and dark plums with nutty/mocha oak adding a savoury edge. Its palate is medium-bodied, very silky, ripe and long, with plenty of finesse to its dark fruit flavours. It's a good '08, which edges ripeness but stays within the lines. 93

Penfolds RWT Shiraz 2008 ($175) Barossa Valley. Smoky, savoury oak most evident on the nose, with plump plums and roast meats beneath. It's deep, rich and ultimately satisfying, in that truest Barossan sense. It's a smooth, juicy '08, with the red and black fruits common to the vintage's better wines, finished off by great length of fruit, tidy tannins and a general even balance throughout. Penfolds have done well here, and this should age particularly well. 94

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($190) Coonawarra, Barossa Valley and Wrattonbully. The news of a Special Bin 620 Cabernet Shiraz from Coonawarra's 2008 vintage had me particularly anxious to try this wine, usually my favourite from Penfolds top end. There's a fresh, perfectly pitched and certainly not overdone touch of mint on the nose (Wrattonbully maybe?), siding with a bright, rich core of blackberries and dark plums, given a further lift by a floral note. Spicy cedar/mocha oak too. The palate is true Bin 707 yet again. Dark, brooding, powerful, typically rich and flavoursome, it thrusts through the mouth with true intensity and a massive bone structure, imparting incredible dryness and spectacular length. 96

Penfolds Grange 2006 ($600) Barossa Valley shiraz with a touch of Magill shiraz. 2% cabernet. Probably not as gang-bustingly brilliant as the 2004, but certainly comparable to the excellent 2002, albeit within the context of its own vintage. In fact, it's everything you'd expect from the label and the season really - a fine match. Another long term classic in the making. (reviewed separate post). 97


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

MOOROODUC ESTATE MCINTYRE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2008

- Mornington Peninsula, VIC
- $36
- Screwcap
- 13.5%alc

Established in 1981, Moorooduc Estate was one of the early comers to Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, a region whose modern impressions of chardonnay and pinot noir vie for the title of Australia's best. In keeping with current trends (and the Mornington's elite), Moorooduc Estate now releases a smart collection of single vineyard selections.

Sweetly fruited and mineral, yet doubtlessly touched by man, the 2008 McIntyre Vineyard shows a contrasting assortment of complex chardonnay scents. A wafer-like scent of nutty vanilla oak lingers confidently in the glass, but it's matched by bold aromas of punchy peaches, melons and lemon butter, with a slight suggestion of sweetness providing the punch. In the mouth it's a bit edgy and nervy, with an undisciplined energy that flies along a course of dry, cutting acids, revealing a hint of rawness in the upper reaches. This energy creates a slick and fast, if perhaps unsettled movement, however, its texture's spot on, as is its flavour, which reflects mineral and lemon butter notes that move onto something more leesy, white nectarine and vanilla-like, before the lengthy tightening process begins. If you're keen on a bit of verve in your chardonnay this might work for you, otherwise, give it a quick decant.

O The 2008 McIntyre Vineyard Chardonnay is one of those wines where if I saw it in another year or two, I'd probably give it another point or two, but right now, I'm calling it as I see it. Drink 2013-2015.
91 points


A TERRIBLY AMBITIOUS ENTREE FOR A NERVY YOUNG MORNINGTON CHARDONNAY

Casey's Lamb Tartare (recipe borrowed from
a Mr J. Oliver)
Served on a grilled sourdough crisp bread, this organic lamb back strap tartare is flavoured with gherkin, dijon mustard, freshly squeezed lemon and orange juice, chilli, fresh mint and olive oil.

I've been on a bit of a tartare trip lately. Well, I've had it 3 times this year, which is a lot for me. :) On all 3 occasions I've had it with relatively young, 'anxious' chardonnays. Admittedly, the pairing wasn't my idea originally (it was Casey's), and I can't find anything to suggest it's an orthodox match, but it just seems to work, both reasonably and surprisingly. The complex flavours and rich mouthfeel of chardonnay seemingly play in harmony to the simultaneously moist and crisp (cracker or crisp provided), complex, fresh characters of a tartare like the one pictured, while the young white wine's nervy acidity cuts cleanly through the fat and oil.

For interest, the other chardonnays I've drunk with tartare dishes have been Shaw and Smith's 2008 M3 and Stefano Lubiana's 2009 Primavera, but the one I dream about pairing with tartare is Bindi's 2009 Composition. I just can't find a bottle in Adelaide anymore.... :(


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

HARDYS OOMOO SPARKLING SHIRAZ 2004

- Clare Valley, SA
- $15-$25
- Cork
- 14.0%alc

If you happen to be a thrifty sparkling red aficionado who's tried Leasingham's terrific 2004 Classic Clare Sparkling Shiraz, then you'll be happy to know there's another, cheaper 2004 Clare Valley sparkling shiraz currently available from the Hardys group. On a more personal note, I'm not sure I appreciate the way Oomoo has spread its wings so far beyond McLaren Vale now, but the value for money in this wine is nothing to sneer at.

Paying homage to its superb vintage, the 2004 Oomoo Sparkling Shiraz lets loose a glowing array of purple plum, mulberry and cherry aromas, all lifted with radiant vitality for its age. There are sly hints of soft spice, shaved chocolate and a developing leathery edge too, which coat its primary fruits with savoury grace. Brightly flavoured and fresh as a daisy, the palate hits all the right spots within its context. It pumps out a deliciously medium-bodied, smooth and somewhat elegant arrangement of vivid varietal fruits with earthy, aniseedy undertones, complemented by a fair caress of finesse throughout the movement. Wrapped up by a fine conclusion which tightens right on cue, its finish is properly balanced and dry, presenting a wonderful persistence of sweet fruit and vanilla oak, which eventually give way to farewell notes of cola and dry leaf. A little bit of time and air only enlightens the experience.

ü+ $16 and 7 years old already? I'll be damned! Hardys' 2004 Oomoo is as good a sub-$20 sparkling red as I can recall. I'd love to see it in another 3-5 years, it's that good. Drink to 2016.
92 points


Monday, May 2, 2011

BROWN BROTHERS SPECIAL LATE HARVESTED ORANGE MUSCAT AND FLORA 2010

- Murray Darling, VIC
- $7-$15 (375ml)
- Screwcap
- 10.0%alc

As far as $10 stickies go, Brown Brothers' little sweetie is among the few I'm quite happy to drink. It's a relatively simple, late harvest style, creatively blended from 2 rare varieties. So unique is the blend of orange muscat (a member of the muscat family) and flora (a hybrid of semillon and gewurztraminer), that the back label even brandishes the Brown Brothers 'World Exclusive' tag.

There's a floral, moscato-like scent of musk emanating from Brown Brothers' 2010, with hints of orange/lemon zest and lychee juice adding interest to a carefully sweetened bouquet. Although matching the nose with a fairly sweet and simple profile, the palate shows a surprisingly concentrated thread of cool, rich flavour for its price, as it unwinds to a taste of stonefruit marmalade refreshingly lifted by notes of lemon citrus and a trail of lychee juice to pass. Its length achieves a pass mark, but it is fractionally tart to linger, however, it remains refreshing enough to down a whole glass (or two!) and at the price, there's little to complain about. It's definitely one to drink well chilled though.

ü Brown Brothers' continued perseverance with this wine shows in the 2010, which balances a surprising richness with refreshing acids and clean flavours. Bargain. Drink to 2013.
88 points