Sunday, May 30, 2010

Meerea Park Tasting – Alexander Munro Range

Last week, Brown and I went to another excellent Oak Barrel Tasting. This time it was with Garth Eather, co-owner of Meerea Park in the Hunter Valley (the other owner is his brother Rhys). The highlights of the night were as expected their premium Alexander Munro Range:

2005 Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon – the grapes come off the Braemore vineyard. Given that Semillon has comparatively little in the way of winemaking input, it would be great to taste this alongside the 05 Andrew Thomas 'Braemore' Semillon (which as the name suggests comes of the same vineyard) to see what - if any - differences there are. Anyway, that’s for another time. This is just starting to show some aged characteristics but is still a largely fresh, youngish Semillon. A slightly developed colour, it has a nose of citrus, some toasty, oily notes along with a hint of honey. On the palate this wine is very impressive. With great acidity and balance, it has lovely fruit before delivering a long finish with just a nice touch of tartness. Everything suggests it will have a long, long life. (RRP:$35)

2009 Meerea Park Alexander Munro Chardonnay – This wine is probably a bit young to be drinking right now, though is clearly a good quality Chardonnay. It has an understated nose of stonefruit verging on tropical fruit along with some nice oak. It has a lovely smooth mouthfeel and a long finish of somewhat tart grapefruit flavours. Needs another year or two before drinking. (RRP: $35)

2007 Meerea Park Alexander Munro Shiraz – This is a wonderful Hunter Shiraz, which is both typical and atypical of the region at the same time. It is slightly atypical in that it has a perfumed, almost lifted nose of berry and cherry fruits, while nevertheless having a bit of typical Hunter earthiness and some nice vanilla oak. Talking to Garth about this he says that the perfumed nose is the result of about 35% of the stems being added to the ferment. The wine has great length and structure, delivering beautiful berry fruit on the front palate before turning largely savoury with sour cherry and a bit of earthiness. There are fine tannins and a bit of spice in support. This drank really well with a bit of air, but it is a special for the cellar. (RRP: $70)

1998 Meerea Park Alexander Munro Shiraz – tasting this wine more or less confirmed my thoughts about the 07 being a long term wine. The 98 Alexander Munro had a lovely aged nose still with plenty of primary, cherry fruit, along with expected leathery, earthy notes that are very much 'of the Hunter'. On the palate it also still had some nice grip and tannin with a beautifully smooth, long finish. Some complexity here with many years still in front of it. (RRP: $110)


Red


Footnote: As luck would have it, I (Brown) was struck down with a bad cold on the night of the tasting. Such a shame, given that I loved the wines and can only imagine how much nicer they would be when fighting fit. Even at less that 100% tasting capacity, the wines all have lovely noses, and the length and structure of the Semillon and Shiraz in particular was impressive. I hope to try some more Meerea Park wines in late July when I visit the Hunter, and will report back on any new wines in the line-up.

Brown

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eden Valley or Clare Valley Riesling?

I was reading an article by Tyson Stelzer in Decanter magazine recently about Clare Valley and Eden Valley Riesling. Of his top 15 picks from the 2009 vintage, 11 were from the Clare Valley. This preference for Clare Valley Rieslings over the Eden Valley is something I’ve noticed more generally amongst critics. Halliday’s best Riesling lists generally have about double the amount of Clare Valley. Jukes’ latest top 100 wines has 7 Clare as against 3 Eden, while Nick Stock’s Penguin Wine Guide has 40 odd Clare reviews compared to only 4 for the Eden.

The reason this broad trend has caught my attention is my preference for Eden Valley Rieslings. The lovely floral bouquets, and the minerality and acidity on the palate of the Eden generally does it for me just that bit more than the rounder, more citrus flavours of the Clare. Eden Rieslings from Pewsey Vale, Poonawatta, Torzi Matthews, and Peter Lehman have all tickled my fancy of late. Before I get into this further I want to say that I love Clare Rieslings. Recently I’ve had the 09 Grosset Polish Hill, as well as the 09 Petaluma Hanlin Hill, and both were absolutely stunning. However, in nominating a preference between these two wonderful Riesling regions, I fall on the Eden side of the ledger.

But I guess my question is what is the reason for the clear dominance of Clare Rieslings amongst wine critics? Is it people’s opinion that Clare Rieslings are definitively better than those of the Eden Valley? Is it possible that in the slightly more objective elements of wine like length, structure, and balance, that the Clare produces better wines.

Do people prefer the flavour profiles of Clare Riesling?

Is it the history of the Clare and the fact it there are possibly more historic wineries of real pedigree? Wineries like Knappstein and Grosset produce truly iconic Riesling, but are they given higher regard than a Pewsey Vale Contours or a Leo Buring Leonay?

Or is it nothing more complicated than the fact that there are more wineries in the Clare with more hectares of Riesling?

Whatever the case it’s an enjoyable conundrum. Both regions occupy a loving place in my cellar but for the minute the Eden has the edge for me . . .


Red

Sunday, May 23, 2010

2006 Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon – Nagambie Lakes (Retail)



Is there a winery producing better quality, cellarable reds in the sub $20 price range in Australia at the moment?

I’ve had more of their Shiraz than Cabernet, though I really enjoyed their 05 Cabernet. I think I like the 06 even more.

It’s a savoury, somewhat rustic wine that tastes like it’s a Tahbilk, and yet it has enough clean, tasty fruit to keep most people happy. It has a perfumed nose with some floral, violet aromas, along with blackcurrant, earth, and well integrated oak. On the front palate there is some nice sweet fruit, but from there it’s all savoury. It’s long and nicely balanced, with hints of mint and salt, and a dry finish of some nice sour and bitter flavours. The tannins are a superb element to this wine. They’re very fine and integrated, but nevertheless noticeable in the way they provide weight and structure to the wine and give it its dry, slightly puckering finish. This wine will do 10 years in a canter and how much longer than that probably just depends on how well you cellar it. Superb wine for the price.

Details
Rated:


RRP: $17
ABV: 14.5%
Website: www.tahbilk.com.au


Red

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dan Murphy's Shiraz Expo, Part Three: South Australian Shiraz

Wines from South Australia will always loom large in any Australian Shiraz tasting (whether the trend setters like it or not). Predictably, there were more than enough examples of SA Shiraz sampled on the day to put a smile on our face. Brief and scratchy notes are below: 
2004 Eileen Hardy Shiraz (McLaren Vale) – beautiful nose – coffee and mocha oak. On the palate super smooth with superb dark fruits with a long finish. Overall a very nice wine.

2008 Mr Riggs Shiraz (McLaren Vale) – nice nose of cedery oak, sweet fruit, and chocolate. More of the typical McLaren Vale bitter chocolate on the palate but not over the top.

2006 Jim Barry McRae Wood Shiraz (Clare Valley) – Elegant, sweet berry fruit nose. Lovely, juicy palate, with some spicy oak and chocolate. Good length.

2007 Chapel Hill Vicar (McLaren Vale) – lovely understated nose of plum, aniseed and some nice oak. Firm tannins and great length on the palate with the typical chocolaty finish.

2008 Shaw & Smith Shiraz (Adelaide Hills) – Lovely perfumed nose of berry fruit and hints of pepper. Nice blueberry fruit on palate, along with more subtle pepper and spice. Nice tannins and length, finishing relatively savoury. Another great result from a winery in good form.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2008 Best's Bin 1 Shiraz

I tasted this almost a month ago (April 23), during the week the Melbourne Storm were stripped of their 2007 and 2009 NRL premierships. By opening a Victorian wine, I thought I would show some solidarity to the innocent Melbourne fans, but couldn’t resist ‘draping’ the bottle in the colours of my team, the Parramatta Eels (who Melbourne defeated in the 2009 Grand Final) in the photo. For the 98% of people who a) don’t know what I am talking about, or b) hate, despise, or are ambivalent towards Rugby League/Sport, I will digress.

The 2008 Best’s Bin 1 Shiraz is an approachable wine with black fruits (dark plum and sour dark cherry), a small shake of spice, minimal (overt) new oak and soft tannins. Of note, there was a deal of sour cherry and acidity on the palate, though it was a positive for me. As an aside, it reminded me of a nice Pinot Noir I had from Henty, which had a similar pleasurable cherry/acid duelling banjos thing going on, but don’t mind me.

Summary - another solid wine from a dependable winery steeped in history.

RRP: $25
ABV: 14.5%
Website: http://www.bestswines.com/

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2005 Lowe Merlot – Mudgee (Cellar Door)



I don’t trust myself when it comes to wines I buy at a cellar door. If you get talking to the person involved in making the wine, whilst sitting in amongst wine barrels and overlooking an invariably picturesque valley, I think it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the moment and see only the positive in a wine. Having purchased the 2005 Lowe Merlot off the back of such an experience over the Easter long weekend at Lowe Family Wines in Mudgee, I was a bit worried it mightn’t be as good as I'd thought it was when I cracked open a bottle the other night. Happily, in this case, my fears were unfounded.

This wine holds a lot of appeal for me. I like the fact it’s an age-worthy Merlot, I like the fact it tastes like a wine from Mudgee, and perhaps crucially, I love assonance in a wine’s name . . .

It has an interesting nose with aromas of rose, berries, plums and black olives. On the palate it is medium bodied and smooth, with tasty red fruits, chocolate, earth, black olive, and a touch of spice. It finishes with decent length and fine tannins. There’s a bit of complexity here, and it has that nice balance between sweet and savoury flavours that I personally find very appealing. Given where the wine is at, I’d assume it has at least another 5 years in it, at which point I’d reckon it will be an even more enjoyable wine (assuming you like aged wine). Give this wine a good decant first.

Details
Rated:


RRP: $28
ABV: 13.0%
Website: www.lowewine.com


Red

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dan Murphy's Shiraz Expo, Part Two: Victorian Shiraz

Following on from Brown’s post on some of the Penfolds Icon wines, below are tasting notes on a few Victorian wines that were tasted on the same day.

2005 Heathcote Estate – rich nose of dark fruits, liquorice, pepper and spice. On the palate it’s juicy, plush, and has decent length. Plenty of yum factor with this wine. Still has a few more years in it but I would be drinking it now. (Heathcote, RRP: $46)

07 Jasper Hill Georgia’s Paddock – Seductive bouquet with aromas of liquorice, molasses, dark fruits, and sweet oak. A bit porty in fact. It floods the palate with plum and berry flavours, while finishing with some nice meatiness and drying tannins. A quality, hedonistic wine, though not sure how well it will age. (Heathcote, RRP: $73)

08 Tar & Roses – This is an enjoyable quaffer. On the nose it has ripe berry aromas that are a bit jammy, along with liquorice and some sweet oak. On the palate there is plenty of nice fruit though it finishes a touch tart. Decent tannins. Good drinking at the price. (Heathcote, RRP: $17.50)

07 Turner’s Crossing Shiraz Viognier – This was the value wine of the day, and is a great example of where the Viognier has actually added to the wine (and as such is in the minority of Australian SV's, in my opinion). It provides quality and complexity at a very reasonable price. Lovely unique nose with subtle aromas of dark fruits, prunes, apricots and spice. It has a long palate with a beautiful balance between berry and chocolate flavours on the one hand, and earthy, savoury flavours on the other. Should age very nicely. (Bendigo, RRP: $25)

Red

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2008 Hewitson Miss Harry (Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre Cinsault) - Retail

Hewitson is an impressive winery. Red and I were treated a lovely tasting and tour of their new facilities in the Barossa late in 2009, and they run a tight ship. I really like their wine labels, the marketing and the overall feel of their setup (their wines are pretty damn good too).

The Hewitson Miss Harry is a predominantly Grenache and Shiraz blend with smaller amounts of Mourvedre and Cinsault added (this being based on from the Hewitson website as it is not on the bottle).

Despite the very difficult 2008 vintage in South Australia, the wine has a nice spicy strawberry nose, juicy red fruits on the palate with a relatively savoury, smooth finish. There is comparatively low alcohol heat evident, and no obvious/overt confectionary, soupy or stewed fruit flavours. It drinks well, and quite effortlessly.

Personally I would be buying this wine to drink in the near-future. I wouldn’t trust the vintage enough to cellar this wine for too long, though am happy to stand corrected in 5-10 years time. In summary a nice, easy drinking yet balanced result from a difficult year made by a very switched-on winery.

RRP: $23-$26
ABV: 14%
Website: http://www.hewitson.com.au/

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dan Murphy’s Shiraz Expo, Sunday 2 May – Part One: Penfolds Icon/Luxury wines

RedtoBrown spent some time at the annual Dan Murphy’s Shiraz Expo a few weeks ago. This is the first of several brief tasting notes we will post from that day. Today’s wines are from Penfolds, including the iconic 2005 Grange.

2005 Grange – Powerful nose is largely dominated by oak (in a good way) and dark fruits. Flavours include a predictably delicious hit of dark berries, as well as some smokiness, meatiness and a whole lot more. Beautifully structured and surprisingly smooth (including relatively restrained tannin). Pedigree and superiority obvious when subsequently tasting other wine. Very nice to drink now, but will be superb with age. (RRP: $549, ABV: 14.5%)

2007 Penfolds RWT – Though 2007 was a tricky vintage for SA Shiraz, there have been some age-worthy examples produced. This wine fits the bill. Obvious oak, though of a nice quality and not overpowering. Juicy plush black fruits, floods palate with some nice spice and liquorice. A 6 pack of these will bruise the bank balance. (RRP: $175, ABV:14.5%)

2006 St Henri – The darling of many wine critics and wine bloggers, the expectation was high for the St Henri based on the very good 2006 vintage. When compared to some of the other South Australian Shiraz tasted, this stands out for its stylistic differences (love them or loathe them). Savoury, and with obvious dark berry flavours, some herbal flavours, drying tannins and a nice bitterness on the finish. Based on the vintage and the track record of the St Henri, you can safely assume this wine will age for decades. Buy up. (RRP: $90, ABV: 14%)

Website - http://www.penfolds.com/home.asp

Katie has never been able to handle her drink . . .

Saturday, May 8, 2010

2006 Tyrrell’s Stevens Single Vineyard Semillon – Hunter Valley (Retail)



Hunter Valley Semillon is a national treasure. It’s the one grape variety that we indisputably do better than any other country in the world, and the Hunter Valley is indisputaby the best region in Australia for Semillon. It’s a wine that can sail well beyond 10 years, and sometimes 20 years, and yet most good examples can typically be bought for prices somewhere between $15-$30.

Tyrrell’s are not only one of the oldest wineries in the Hunter valley (est. in 1858), but are also generally considered the finest producers of Hunter Valley Semillon. With all that heritage and pedigree to live up to, the 2006 Stevens Semillon more than holds its own. It’s a superb Semillon.

It’s drinking beautifully now, but has a long, long way to go before reaching its toasty, mature peak. It has a spritzy, almost sherbet like nose of citrus aromas. On the palate it has lovely acidity and minerality, but this is also matched by some scrumptious rich, oily, honey like flavours. It has a long dry finish that interestingly has a hint of nuttiness. Great balance and drinkability, it’s still a fresh, youngish Semillon, though those toasty elements that will dominate in later life are evident. Loved drinking this and will love it even more with age. Under screwcap it’s assured of long life.

Details
Rated:
+


RRP: $25
ABV: 10.5%
Website: www.tyrrells.com.au


Red

Sunday, May 2, 2010

2006 PHI Lusatia Park Pinot Noir – Yarra Valley (Restaurant)



In the past 6 months I’ve had the three best Aussie Pinots I’ve ever had – the 2006 Stonier Windmill Pinot Noir, 2008 Bindi Original Pinot Noir, and now the 2006 PHI Lusatia Park Pinot Noir. This is partly a reflection of me drinking an increasing amount of this varietal, but also I think a reflection of the ever improving quality of Australian Pinot Noir.

A bottle of this was consumed for our wedding anniversary over dinner at Altitude restaurant in Sydney. Given the occasion, the stunning views of Sydney Harbour, and the superb food, this Pinot Noir was more than up to the task.

My wife kept on remarking on what a beautiful nose the wine had. It’s not an overly obvious or powerful nose but it is a stunning smelling wine with wonderful complexity. It’s delicately balanced between sweet and savoury aromas and over the course of the dinner smelt of sour cherry, strawberry, grilled nuts, rose petals, and a hint of salt. On the palate it drinks wonderfully. Nice acidity, a touch of spice and stalkiness, with a lovely core of sweet fruit on the front and mid-palate, before finishing with an overall impression of savouriness. Great structure with beautiful line and length, and lovely fine tannins. It’s a wine that is great on its own, but went beautifully with food over a number of courses, ranging from fish through to game.

You wouldn’t always say that a $55 RRP wine was good value. However, I’d argue it’s the case with this wine, as a hand-picked, single vineyard Pinot Noir, that delivers such superb quality and will age well beyond the 10 year mark.

Details
Scored:




RRP: $55
ABV: 13.5%
Website: www.phiwines.com

Red
 
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