Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Red's Top 5 - 2011

I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again. The Silly Season is in full swing, so it’s time to have a crack at my top 5 wines for the year.

As with last year, my criteria remains the same: my Top 5 consists only of wines that I have sat down and tasted over at least a couple of hours and ideally over a couple of days, more often than not with food. The more I taste, drink, and assess wines, the more I am convinced that wine needs to be granted time in order to be fairly assessed and commented on. While a quick assessment may sometimes tell you all you need to know, often it does not, and some of the more interesting wines require contemplation to come around to their way of thinking.

My Top 5 are not necessarily my 5 highest rated wines (though they all have scored well), but more importantly they are wines that I found genuinely memorable and enjoyable. At a time when we increasingly embrace newer varieties, and newer styles of wine, the thing that has struck me is how “traditional” my Top 5 is (the Westend Aglianico excepted). Included are a Barossa Shiraz sourced from multiple growers, a rich style of Yarra Chardonnay, and finally perhaps the least fashionable of all, a Coonawarra Cabernet. As much as anyone, I’m a fan of all the exploration happening in Australian wine (I dream of a benchmark Australian Nebbiolo), but I think sometimes people need to be careful that in their rush to proclaim “cool-climate” this and “biodynamic” that, that the baby isn’t thrown out with the bathwater when it comes to traditional Australian wine styles that are done well. In alphabetical order, my top 5 wines are

2010 Head Brunette Syrah – Northern Rhone meets the Barossa Valley in the best possible manner with this superb single vineyard Moppa shiraz from Alex Head. Complexity plus, and will benefit from time in a cool cellar.

2002 Peter Lehmann Stonewell Shiraz – A wine I only tasted a week or so ago, but it was just so good that it bumped out some other worthy contenders. While different from the Head Brunette, it has many similar traits in that is a relatively restrained and elegant rendition of a Barossa Shiraz that is built to age. Many years in front of it.

2005 Tarrawarra Reserve Chardonnay – A chardonnay reaching its peak. Generosity matched with restraint, power match with elegance. If someone wanted me to the show them what great Chardonnay is (and I wasn’t prepared to fork out for Grand Cru Burgundy), then this is a wine I would put in front of them.

2008 Westend Calabria Private Bin Aglianico – the cheapie in the Top 5. For $15 you get character, flavour, rusticity and importantly some rippling tannin. A revelation for me as a Riverina table wine. Loved drinking this, and everything is there to suggest it should age nicely over the next 5 years as well.

2001 Wynns Black Label Cabernet – One of the first wines I cellared a number of years ago, and this was the 3rd bottle of 6 that I have consumed. I tasted it over 4 nights, and while it was beautiful from the get go, it got better and better during that time. Cork permitting, this will continue to age and improve over the next decade. Wynns Cabernet almost seems to defy vintage and winemaker at times in its ability to age gracefully, and this less than heralded wine is a wonderful case in point.

Some very notable mentions – 2009 De Iuliis Steven Shiraz, 2010 Head Old Vine Grenache, 2011 Henschke Julius Riesling, 2010 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay, 2002 Houghton Jack Mann, 2006 Pio Cesare Barolo, 2009 Sorrenberg Chardonnay



Chris Plummer said...

I've already read several positive reviews and I've been tempted several times but that does it, I'm buying a bottle of the '11 Julius tomorrow....

Chris P

Red said...

Let me know what you think. I loved it, and think it's a must for the cellar.

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