Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Brash Higgins Single Vineyard Shiraz 2010

Brash  Higgins is a label that people must get to know!

Brash Higgins Single Vineyard Shiraz 2010

Pepper and spice and all things nice is where Brash it at. He himself is a jovial and bouncy type of guy and this is how his wine comes across. He talks the talk and from this wine walks the walk.  The wine is loveable and cuddly but there is a tightness to the tannin structure that will open up with 5 or so years in a cave. From a flavour perspective there are dangles of plum and chocolate mixed with licorice but everything is encrusted in spice. I am transfixed by what this wine tastes like and how it makes me feel. Bravo!

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $37
Rated: 88 +
Drink: 2017 - 2030

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs Brut NV

This Champagne is made by one of the rising stars from Aube in Champagne. Cedric own a tiny 1 hectare plot of top quality vineyards with the average age of the vines sitting at a mature 30 years of age. In 2008 he was awarded the prestigious award of finest winemaker in Champagne by the most influential wine guide in France. This wine comes from vines owned by his father but is treated the exact same way as his own label.

Cedric Bouchard Inflorescence Blanc de Noirs Brut NV

Made from 100% Pinot Noir, disgorged in 2010 and doesn't it taste exotic and artisan. The fruit was picked by hand and crushed by foot but there is no taste of tinea, instead it is fresh as a daily. The wine starts out with morello cherries but soon a razor sharp fresh picked raspberry mixed with lemon rind takes over. It the sort of wine that you could get lost in the complexities and forget about the mouthfeel but as i'm obsessed with mouthfeel I sit back and take notice. It draws every inch of my mouth in sucking it dry and leaving in bouncy.  I would have to say that this would be the best drink to serve people as they arrive at you place for dinner or lunch, just to spark conversation amongst the group. This wine balances lovely minerality, chalkiness and brillaint flavours from start to finish.

Alcohol: 12.5%
Price: $99
Rated: 95
Drink: Now or later
Importer: Eurocentric Wine

Friday, 25 May 2012

Shingleback Unedited Shiraz 2010

Here is one of the companies that heavily invested in the US market.  Up until now they have not bothered with marketing and selling their wine in Australia but due to the US market dropping out they now are thinking of setting up a cellar door down in the Vales.

Shingleback Unedited Shiraz 2010

This is another big and in your face wine but it does have a little elegance in the mid-palate that takes it up the quality level. There are also some nice chalky tannins that seduce and mingle with your tongue but the level of warmth from the mid-palate on is a little too much.  Did someone say too much hang time? All in all it is a wine that is built for a purpose and that is to wow you into submission. Did it wow me? No but it did get me thinking which is something I enjoyed.

Alcohol: 15.7%
Price: $70
Rated: 87
Drink: Now - 2020

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio 2006

Barone Ricasoli has been through a few hand changes but it is now back in family hands and the wines they are turning out are either great value or jaw dropping in quality. This wine is both.

Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio 2006

This wine is not quite ready to drink as it took three days to fully open out and show it true colours. For a Tuscan wine this is full bodied with flavours of blackberry and dried daisies flowing from the glass. These flavours dangle in an alluring manner before my eyes and then they transform into balsamic vinegar and crushed earth which takes their place with a little spice adding interest on the back palate. The depth of flavour is specular and the textural component are magical, to say the least. I sat their with this wine marvelling at the quality and precision that has been etched into this vinious sculpture. Italy is leading the pack for top quality wines in the world with price tags that are stupidly low.

Alcohol: 14%
Price: $99
Rated: 96+
Drink: 2016 - 2028
Importer: Bibendum Wine Co.

Dowie Doole Scarce Earth Shiraz 2010

Dowie Doole is not a winery that I have tried much of but I get the feeling that they have shares in a barrel company. This wine is picked from a block which is located just outside the main highway from Adelaide to Victor Harbour as you pass the entry into McLaren Vale.  This vineyard would be at some of the lowest elevation in the area and on grey and red alluvial soils which are some of the younger soils in the area.

Dowie Doole Scarce Earth Shiraz 2010

Oak, Oak and Oak are three of the main features of this wine but it does come off as polished and seductive. Under the oak is Dutch licorice and melted blackberries spooning with Hershey's chocolate and a leather whip.  My tasting companion called it a cat of nine tails as this wine was bombastic in my mouth. As there is already a leather characteristic I wouldn't be holding on to this as long as some of the other 2010s but it does provide comfort now if you are into a full sized Shiraz.  What is missing from this wine is the tannin structure.  It is there but there is a huge hole in it from the mid palate on.

Alcohol: 14.7%
Price: $45
Rated: 85
Drink: Now - 2018

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2009

The vineyard that is just in front of the Magill Estate restaurant was the major component that went into St Henri and Grange when those two labels were starting out so it is great to see that Penfolds has kept a special place for this fruit to go into.

Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2009

This is the sort of wine that takes me a long time to work out as there is an element of over ripe fruit mixed in with pure gold.  The over ripe element comes in the form of dates and stewed plum but when the pure gold rolls over it is brilliant.  The wine tastes a little brambly and cool then some playful spicy earth notes waltz over and introduce themselves. It is an easy introduction and one that I'm happy to have made. Now I'm not sure what the quality of Magill was like in 2009 but if it anything like the heat wave I remember, this wine has done very well to get out of it alive.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $130
Rated: 91
Drink: Now - 2025

Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2009 (6)

Geoff Merrill Reserve Shiraz 2010

Geoff is one of the long time living histories from the wine industry, who decided to go his own way in 1980. Geoff has been instrumental with assisting in the development of the Stellenbosch in South Africa as well as establishing Hardys reputation in McLaren Vale.

Geoff Merrill Reserve Shiraz 2010

Darkness is lurking all over the house and something will scare you if you don't watch out. Well I started humming this as soon as this wine touched my mouth. The wine starts out with all the usual McLaren vale aspect of licorice and chocolate coated coffee bean before the earthiness of the vintage becomes evident.  There are also moments of plum and blackberry before a soft and unobtrusive load of tannin kicks in.  This is the sort of wine that would be brilliant late at night with a slow spit roast going which you would dish up in a fresh roll with home made tomato sauce. Nothing is out of place in this wine and it is a testament to the quality of McLaren Vale wines in 2010.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $60
Rated: 87
Drink: Now - 2034

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Legend of Terroir

Regionality is the buzz word in the wine industry at the moment. This partly due to the vast range of Australian wines on the international and national stage and the opportunity to define them in a more specific manner. Some American and European wine press have in the past referred to Australian wine “tasting all the same”. What they are really referring to is the more famous Barossa, McLaren Vale or blended wines from a multiplicity of wine regions as these were the large proportion of wines shipped overseas.

The distance and difference between the regions of Australia allow wine makers to create wines for all palates and showcasing regionality lets other styles shine.  Let me take you through the journey that is the legend of terroir with four questions that spring to mind when people refer to terroir or regionality .–

  • What is it?
  • Why is it important?
  • What interferes with the expression of it? and
  • Who is doing it best?

Let’s look at each question and then announce which 3 wineries from the Barossa that express the region spectacularly.  In the following articles I will look at other regions within Australia. What is regionality? It is what makes that wine special, unique, giving it a sense of place.  The end result is when you open the bottle of wine and the aroma rises out of the bottle to transport you to the time and place where it was grown.  Regionality is important, as it is the expression of a particular place that makes it very difficult for others to replicate. 

When Australia burst onto the international scene we produced well constructed, clean wines that were fruit driven compared to many of the French, South American and South African wines that had winemaking faults riddled through them.  Now the rest of the world has cleaned up their act while still maintaining their regional heritage.  It is relevant to turn the attention to what interferes with the expression of regional wine.
Regionality gives the bottle of wine a sense of place and uniqueness and is important for marketing and protecting the individuality of the wine. We now turn our attention to factors that influence the degree that regionality is expressed in the wine. Specifically, the viticultural and winemaking processes will be assessed. Many winemakers would argue that the expression of regional wines comes down to the vineyard and the age of the vines.  The older the vines, the deeper the root system and the greater the vine has to draw intake of soil substrates.  While I agree that the vineyard plays a major role, I would propose that the vineyard management plays an equally vital role.  Generally lower yields, canopy management and whether it is dry grown or irrigated plays a critical role as the greater the irrigation and higher yield the greater dilution of flavours. This is the “regionality” of the wine.  Another major component is how long the grapes spend on the vine.  You get two things if you let the grapes sit on the vine longer; one is an increase in alcohol and the second is a change in flavour.  The profile moves vibrant fruit that tastes like you have picked from the bush or tree to currants, port or baked fruit.  Try leaving a tub of blackberries in the oven for 45 minutes at 180 degrees.  It doesn’t matter where the wine originated from, if they are left sitting on the vine too long these flavours work their way into the wine.

Everything in the vineyard plays a huge part in determining the quality of the regional expression but we will turn our attention to the winemaking process that influences the degree to which it is expressed.  Generally some whites and most red wines are treated with oak, so logically the choice of oak would have an effect on the expression of regionality.  There are two main types of oak barrels, American and French.  American oak imparts sweet flavours like coconut, bourbon and vanilla.  Compared to the French, the American oak is quickly absorbed into the wine which can dominate the aromatics of the wine.  French oak on the other hand slowly imparts flavours of spice, toasted almonds, jasmine or roses.  French oak also transmits a silky tannin structure.  It is a real tight rope for winemakers then they use 100% new American oak, if they want to express the regionality.  That does not mean that the quality of wines that are aged in American oak are lower, rather the quality of the grapes has to be higher to fully articulate their regional background.  The vineyard, vineyard management and oak play the major roles in expressing the sense of place in a wine, but how the wine is fermented provides the icing on the cake.

When it comes to the fermentation of sugar to alcohol the type of yeast plays a vital role in adding flavours and textures. There are options galore when it comes to different types of yeast, so I’ll divide them up into the following groups: wild ferment and super charged strains.  If you have ever brewed beer at home you will know that you can pick different strains of yeast to add particular flavours to your beer.  The strains they use in wine do pretty much the same thing.  Wild yeast is common in the environment especially in close proximity to sugar rich food such as grapes.  They lay on the skins waiting to convert the sugars into alcohol. One could say they are the party animals of the organism world. These ferments are generally longer to start and take longer to finish the process.  Generally the artisan makers are the only ones that are doing this and this method results in a unique commonality running through the whole of the range. 

Who is doing it best?

I have had the pleasure of tasting a  wide variety of wines from the Barossa Valley in South Australia  and have selected  three wineries including, Spinifex, Michael Hall and Shobbrook Wines, that beautifully express the characteristics of the region and sub-regions.  From interviewing all three winemakers on the same day the first thing that stuck out was the passion that all three showed.  It was cascading out of each of them and I must admit that rubbed off on me.  You could say that I had an extra spring in my step.  Peter Schell from Spinifex grew up in New Zealand, which is where he met his wife Magali Gely, and moved to the Barossa to pursue an education in winemaking.  After completing his formal education he and his wife travelled the world completing vintages in Burgundy, Provence, Languedoc, Bordeaux and New Zealand before settling down in the Barossa Valley.  It was here in the Barossa that Peter could work with some of the oldest vines in the world including 100 year old Mataro, Ugni Blanc and Shiraz.  Peter works with family growers who have a deep understanding and passion for producing high quality grapes in a respectful and sustainable manner. Similarly, Michael Hall scoured the world to find growers that respected the land, growing sustainable grapes with varieties that suited the climate.  Michael grew up in England where, in his early 20s he developed a passion for wines.  This was the time in England when wine bars started to become popular.  Michael recalls reading Oz Clarks Wine Guide and being inspired and stimulated to be taken on a journey to taste all of the wines from his readings.  He settled in the Barossa where he now makes diverse wine styles like cool climate Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills and full bodied Shiraz all within one hours drive from his home.   Throughout his winemaking journey, Michael Hall has worked with many of the icon wineries within Australia and the world, including Domaine Leflaive, Vieux Telegraphe, Giaconda and Cullen. You couldn’t have asked for a more impressive resume.

Unlike Peter and Michael, winemaker Tom Shobbrook from Shobbrook Wines grew up in the Barossa but travelled to Chianti, Italy to do a vintage overseas.  He ended up staying for eight years where he worked as the cellar master for Riecine which meant he was in charge of overseeing the grapes within the vineyard to the time they left the winery in the bottle.  His time in Italy cemented the concept of quality in the vineyard translated to ease of work within the winery to produce the best possible wine in the bottle.  Tom definitely has a strong sense of respect for the vineyard and pushing the viticultural boundaries to express regional wine that are food friendly and exciting.   The common theme that they talked about was a respect for the land and vine where the people that farmed the land created an environment where the ecosystem was allowed to thrive and produce grapes that showed vitality, harmony and balance.   They spoke about how it is an exciting time in the industry as people are just coming to understand the link between sustainable farming, a connection to land and unique quality wines.  When they spoke about where they saw the wine industry in five years time both Peter and Michael said that he thought the focus would be on high quality vineyards and an increase in the perception of high quality Australian wines worldwide.  Tom thought that education is important where open minded people could discuss viticultural practises and the impact on the quality of grape production.  In the end you can see that these three winemakers are experimenting with viticultural practises to forge ahead with producing quality regional wines.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Politini Rose 2010

The King Valley has been around for a while but it wasn't until the early 1970s when two families started planting in the Upper reaches near Moyhu that things really started to take off.  The change in elevation and in rainfall makes this area difficult to plant one type of variety but the area is focusing on elegant food friendly style. The underlying soil structure in many of the areas contains a high content of red clay loam which means that there is plenty of free drainage.  What is also means is that there is a high degree of nutrients in the soil for the vines to grow well without much trouble.

Politini Rose 2010

I'm not a big fan of sweet style rose and this one is definitely not in that camp. That said there is an initial uptake of sweet cherries but it then turns dirt and savoury as the wine slides down my tongue.  I guess you could say that this is a dangerous wine as I found that I had finished a glass before I knew it and had already poured another before I had started writing my notes. I think that is a rather good thing for a wine to possess.  On the flavour front there is nice moments of sour raspberries, rhubarb, lemon rind and spice before a light dusting of chalky tannins kick in.  These tannins are rare in rose in Australia but they work so well in this wine.  The most surprising thing about this wine is the price to quality ratio.  High quality to low price which is just brilliant.

Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $16
Rated: 86
Drink: Now or over the next few years

Sangiovese Rosé 2010

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Brokenwood End of Vintage Report 2012

 Brokenwood End of Vintage Report 2012

Exactly two months on since the previous report and the arrival of Nick Bulleid and his Pinot Noir, I think we can safely say that the last fruit is in, 91 days after we started on Hunter Valley Semillon.
The 40th Brokenwood vintage, the 30th vintage of Iain Riggs at the helm, the 20th for vintage manager Keith Barry and the 1st for Simon Steele, has been one full of interest and challenges.  

The last two months have seen every berry of our Hunter red picked, probably the only Hunter winery to do so.  Simon and Stuart and the winery team have delivered an excellent range of wines from Hunter Valley Semillon and Shiraz to the full complement out of Beechworth, the Chardonnay and Pinot are particularly exciting), rich robust reds from McLaren Vale and cool climate Sauvignon Blanc from the Forest Edge Vineyard at Orange.  However the rain and disease pressure did get the better of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay at the Forest Edge.  Interesting to see that the Southern Oscillation Index returned to negative or El Nino territory in mid April 2012, bringing up exactly two years of La Nina conditions. Hunter Valley winemakers can work with the odd break in the weather to turn out top wines but a rain free vintage would be welcomed I’m sure.
Of course El Nino could mean days on end of 40C plus weather, so to keep one step ahead a 100sqm blast chilling room is being built, along with a complete upgrade and relocation of the refrigeration system. 
The winery waste water is now being recycled for growing jumbo grass and then harvested for vineyard mulch.   

Wines going into bottle in the next few weeks include three Single Vineyard 2012 Semillon’s, one of which will be released at 6 years as the ILR reserve as well as a very fresh and vibrant 2012 Hunter Semillon.  The other early bottling will be the 2012 Beechworth Pinot Gris.  With all the 2012 grapes in the winery, work swaps over to getting the 2011 reds out of oak and the most important of all being the 2011 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

Guigal La Turque 2005

Guigal is the biggest negociant and wine producer in Cote Rotie and they produce some of the least and most expensive wines in the region. The La Turque, La Landonne and La Mouline are at the top of the quality and price tree.  These wines are made in a more modern style yet they still retain the inherent structure of an old world wine. Below is a photo of the La Turque vineyard.


Image from Oldbridgewine

Guigal La Turque 2005

Get out your visa cards as you will need it to purchase a bottle of this.  To start with this wine was all locked up and not showing well but it is only 8 degrees today so I warmed the glass up in my hand before taking the plunge. After it warms a little flavoursome note of red-fruits dancing with graphite and spice start to take hold. These flavours are soon taken over by blackberry essence and funky earth that has had a fresh bail of straw and a cow poo added to it.  The marvellous flavours are outdone by the tannin structure which with every heart beat builds and builds into the crescendo of fireworks on new year eve.   These tannins hug my tongue with love and lust that just makes me want to sit with this wine longer.  There is nothing overwhelming about this wine, in fact it is medium bodied controlled yet has this power running through its skin that it magical and mystical at the same time. What I would say is that this is not ready to drink now. I would wait until it turns into a teenager and then have a look.  

Alcohol: 13%
Price: $750
Rated: 96+
Drink: 2018 - 2034

Penfolds 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Penfolds 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

2009 Cabernet's from the Barossa are so drinkable! Well this isn't totally from the Barossa but a large component comes from the area. This wine has an inherent forcefulness about it with plush flavours and a savoury element sitting in underneath. The normally full on American oak is hiding behind the flavours and the structure manages to settle in nicely which provide a nice counter point to the extrovert nature of the flavours.  While everything is balanced, I really dig the flavours of blackcurrant, tomato leaf, mint, spice, chocolate and stinging nettle as they are easy to understand and in your face.  When I say in your face, these flavours aren't trying to be aggressive but they do make themselves known. Now to the length. Long, long and long like the Amazon as it take you on a journey with events that you wish you could have photographed. One wine for now or later.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $200 street price
Rated: 94
Drink: Now - 2030

Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Henschke End of Vintage 2012

Henschke End of Vintage 2012

With the long days of vintage behind us, but still fresh in our minds, it is now time to reflect on the 2012 vintage, which I consider to be in the top five vintages of my 35 years of winemaking.
In the lead-up to vintage, the La Niña pattern weakened, resulting in a drier, colder winter with below average rainfall, which followed through to spring with mild conditions and an early budburst. Flowering and fruit set were affected by wet, drizzly weather in Eden Valley and persistent morning fogs in the Adelaide Hills, which led to only average yields.  The summer was also surprisingly mild with below average temperatures and only two short heat events to speak of. Some cooler weather, followed by an Indian summer, provided a slow ripening period and allowed for a long window of picking, which produced intense fruit flavours, high colour figures, good acidity and mature tannins in our Eden Valley fruit. The slow ripening period in the Adelaide Hills encouraged intense fruit flavours, high natural acidity and good balance in the fruit. 

In Eden Valley the standout varieties were riesling, showing delightful aromatics, purity, intensity, excellent acidity and length of flavour, and shiraz, showing great purity, colour intensity and strikingly mature tannins. In the Adelaide Hills the standout varieties were chardonnay, showing exquisite fruit flavours, length and acidity, and pinot noir, showing excellent spice, colour intensity and mature, velvety tannins.   

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Sticks No 29 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

The Sticks winery is located in Yarra Valley but this wine comes from two sub-regions, Dixons Creek and Yarra Glen.  Dixons Creek is not that big of a sub-region with only 34 people studying at the school in the area. What this area does provide is elegance in the Cabernet variety.  Below is a map of the two areas that this wine herald from.

Dixons Creek VIC

Image from Google Maps

Yarra Glen VIC

Image from Google Maps

Sticks No 29 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

True easy going and sophisticated flavours of fresh leaves and tiny blackcurrants slowly waltz out of my glass but they do so in such a manner that I have to stand to attention. The wine is definitely well constructed with the tannin and acid sitting firmly under the flavours of fun and frivolous joy. There is life brimming from the beautiful knight in well worn armour but that only adds to the experience now and in the future. It is the sort of wine that could be consumed now but I get the feeling that it will reward a few years in a dungeon.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $40
Rated: 88
Drink: 2014 - 2025

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone 2009

More people need to drink these sort of wines as they are so easy to like in a medium bodied and food friendly manner.  You could get home from work and crack one, consuming the whole bottle without even thinking or you could take your time with a nice Baron of Lamb sprinkled with garden herbs.  

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes du Rhone 2009

If Mataro drove an F1 car it would be Sebastian Vettel as it dominates this wine. It does this in a inviting and alluring manner with plenty of red-fruits and tannic grip to match.  It is the sort of wine that creeps up on you with every sip which adds to the overall pleasure of the vinous experience.   Over the course of the event the team is joined by spring flowers and autumn leaves rolled in warm clay and spice. All of these lovely flavours combine effortlessly with the structure to complete the package. This is the sort of wine I will drink in the short to medium term while I wait for the big guns to rest in my cellar.

Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: ?
Rated: 88+
Drink: Now - 2017
Importer: Negociants

Penfolds RWT 2009

Penfolds RWT 2009

400 grams Sultanas
75 grams Raisins, finely chopped
200 grams Mixed fruit
200 ml Brandy
250 grams Butter
155 grams Brown Sugar
4 Eggs
75 grams Marmalade
300 grams Plain Flour
75 grams Self-raising Flour
1 Tbs Mixed Spice
250 Ml Rum

1 Punnet Blueberries

100 grams Milk Chocolate

Pinch of Spice

1 stick of Salami

Combine sultanas, raisins, mixed fruit and rum in a owl and allow to sit over night in the fridge. Preheat over to 150 degrees Celsius. Beat butter and sugar together and then beat in eggs one at a time. Add the marmalade and beat until combined and then fold in flour, spice and fruit mixture.  Spoon into prepared pan and cover with foil.  Cook in 3 1/2 hours or until an inserted skew comes out clean. You now have a perfect rum fruitcake.

Cook punnet of blueberries in oven at 150 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes to release pungent blueberry flavours.

Serve warm blueberries, fruitcake, milk chocolate, spice and salami on a platter for guests.

Alcohol: 14.5%
Price: $130 street price
Rated: 93
Drink: Now - 2027

Monday, 14 May 2012

Poderi Aldo Conterno Il Favot Nebbiolo DOC 2008

Many wine connoisseur regard Pinot Noir as the elixir from the god yet I'm yet to have a life changing moment with that variety.  On the other hand I have had many jaw dropping moments with Nebbiolo so it is always great to see another one land on my tasting bench.  This variety possesses those beautiful aromatics yet it has a tannin and acid structure that is often to die for.  This wine I like so much that after only having four days off in the last six weeks I'm thinking of cracking another one of these on Friday as I have the week-end totally free.  

Poderi Aldo Conterno Il Favot Nebbiolo DOC

Imagine rolling around in warm earth on a mild spring day in a country garden in England and you basically have this wine down pat. You also get an inviting fluffy sweet tannin structure that is accessible now, this is strange for your normal Nebbiolo as they often need a while in the cellar, and a easy acid element.  Now I don't think this is built for the long haul but it does give you an incite into what the variety brings to the table. 

Alcohol: 13.5%
Price: $80
Rated: 90
Drink: Now - 2016
Importer: Negociants