Friday, August 31, 2012

2011 Whicher Ridge Riesling (Frankland River)

This is a cracking Riesling. Elegant, unobtrusive acidity mark it out as different from many of its peers.

Classic flavours of lime, grapefruit, bath salts, and after being open for a couple of days, lovely hints of honey emerge. The wine turns bone dry through the back palate, and that sense is accentuated by a beautiful river stone minerality. Great persistence of flavour completes the journey. Neil and Cathy Howard have turned out another impressive, textural white. Drink it this summer with some fresh seafood, or put in the cellar for the next decade and watch it blossom. Love it. 4 Stars +


RRP: $28
ABV: 12.5%
Drink: 2012-2022


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2009 Domaine Pavelot Savigny les Beaune (Burgundy)

Burgundy rarely offers value for money. At about $35-$40, however, this wine isn’t terrible in that regard.

This is quite a ripe, generous pinot noir, which is in line with what one might expect from the 2009 vintage in Burgundy. Flavours of cherry, plum, and a bit of earthiness. Some creamy oak. There is some nice grip with the tannins and it finishes with decent length. Not a lot of complexity here, but certainly enjoyable to drink.

Rated: 3.5 Stars
RRP: $35-$40
Drink: 2012-2015



Sunday, August 26, 2012

COMMENTARY - Binge Drinking, Alcohol-Fuelled Violence and Small Wine Bars – an Alternate, Absurdist Reality?

The following interview took place at Kings Cross Police Station, 4:30AM one Sunday morning in an alternate reality.........
“I should have known when to stop drinking” James whispered to the police officers in the Kings Cross interview room, as he sat bent-over, head in his hands. “We were only out for a good time, but went to one wine bar too many”.
James and two of this three mates had been arrested an hour earlier for affray in Darlinghurst Road after spending the evening in Kings Cross. James was 15 minutes into his police interview, when he was quizzed on how much alcohol he and his friends had consumed on the night. James rattled off a list of bottles and glasses of wine from all wine regions and wine styles. The police officer interviewing looked over to the minute-taker in a knowing way – this was the third wine-related violent incident she had seen this weekend alone. The arrival of 4 new small wine bars in the Kings Cross area had led to considerably more instances of binge drinking and violent attacks in the last 18 months.

James groaned when he was asked what alcohol he had consumed on the night. “We started at a multi-level beer hall, but hated the ambient atmosphere and 2 for 1 shooters, so went to the first of many small wine bars” James recalled, before noting a $100 bottle of Champagne, a bottle of 10 year aged Semillon and a $180 bottle of Barolo had been shared between his mates at that bar alone  (while also listing several small mezze plates that were thoughtlessly consumed at the same time).

He spent the next ten minutes recounting his alcohol-fuelled binge at 3 other small wine bars, up until  the point the last bar shut at midnight (as per small bar licensing rules). “We should have taken the safer option and just gone to the Bourbon and Beefstake and done shots, or headed to a strip club” James lamented. “I knew hitting the wine bars was going to lead to trouble”.
With his face in his hands, and staring down the barrel of an assault charge and a criminal record, James continued answering questions.
The interview above is obviously fictional, though given some recent commentary regarding small Sydney inner city wine bars, you might have to pause for a moment before dismissing it as such. In light of some truly tragic violent crimes in the King Cross area, a public debate about alcohol-fuelled violence in the Sydney CBD has occured. Incredibly, part of this debate had focused on the recent proliferation of small wine bars as being one of the contributing factors behind the violence.
First there was former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who must hate natural wine and tasting plates, given his simplistic, reductionist slur on small (largely wine) bars, not to mention his personal attacks on Clover Moore. As a recent newspaper article notes:
Mr Keating also attacked Cr Moore's policy of encouraging small bars around Kings Cross, outside the area subject to a freeze on new liquor licences imposed by the Labor government in 2009.
''Small bars are still where people drink,'' Mr Keating said. ''Clover Moore says this is cosmopolitan but the reality is these are more places where people can get a drink.'' (Link)
Paul – sure, people drink in a wine bar, but the last time I checked, Tequila Slammers or B52’s have never been recommended to me by a sommelier or informed waiter in a wine bar (or a whisky speakeasy for that matter).  In an entertainment strip full of mega bars and strip clubs, to single out 4-5 small bars that sell a comparatively miniscule volume of relatively expensive, contemplative alcoholic beverages is simplistic and misleading.

The new boutique Kings Cross Wine bar "Hells Burgundy Angels" opened
to much fanfare, particularly among members of the criminal underworld

More worryingly, we have the current NSW Hospitality Minister, George Souris coming out and stating publically that the rules governing the establishment of small bars in Sydney will be reviewed by the NSW government, suggesting small bars are contributing to problems in areas such as Kings Cross (Link).
Given the vice-like grip the Hotel lobby has had on consecutive State governments and the glut of massive, classless, poker machine filled beer bars and clubs in the Sydney CDB (and beyond), comments like these are frustrating, simplistic and arguably misleading.
To disproportionately focus on small wine bars as a contributing factor to violent crimes in Kings Cross is astounding, and seemingly politically motivated (if not motivated by the urgings of powerful lobby groups trying to deflect attention away from other causes for the binge drinking).
It is as if the scenario played out in the opening ‘interview’ is the norm, and the violent thugs and undesirables are avoiding the alcohol-free and trouble-free strip clubs, Bars and multi-level nightclubs, instead zeroing-in on the dark intimate wine bars to binge drink and wipe themselves out.

Clover Moore polarises opinions, but her changes to licensing laws have helped reinvigorate the small bar scene in Sydney over the last 4 years. This has been mentioned by RedtoBrown and others in the past and is a wonderful development for anyone who loves fine wine. People who says otherwise must not have visited a wine bar over this period.
Seeking refuge from the violent wine bar customers,
the group fled to the safe confines of the Hotel's Poker Machine room.

In light of the power of certain lobby groups, talk of restricting the sale of all drinks above 5% abv after midnight had been mooted. Thankfully, it appears that the State Government is implementing some alcohol and glass bans that target the sale of spirits and shots, but not the ongoing operation of small bars themselves. (Link) How these laws may impact on the opening of additional small bars is yet to be seen.
Regardless of the positive or negative impact of these bans, the misleading commentary regarding small bars has cast them in an undeservedly negative light. It is as if the fictional police interview at the top is how certain politicians and commentators view the impact of small wine bars in Sydney, and this view is so far from the truth, it is absurd.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

2011 Yelland and Papps Vin De Soif (Grenache Mataro Shiraz Carignan)

The new vintage release of the entry-level Yelland and Papps ‘Delight’ range see’s the bottles kitted out in a new, contemporary label that fits snugly with the spirit of the Delight wines.

The Vin De Soif, a new addition to the range, leaps out of the blocks with a surprisingly fragrant, spicy nose of cloves, dried green herbs and salted liquorice. On the palate, the wine is a bit more mellowed; relaxed but generous. Medium bodied with juicy blackberry, dark cherry and raspberry fruits flavours, herbaceous and meaty on the mid and back palate, finishing with soft, drying tannin.
The 14.5% abv does not stand out or throw-out the balance of the wine.
‘Vin de Soif’ can be broadly translated into English as ‘thirst quenching wine’, and as such, this wine is aptly named. You could easily serve it slightly chilled in summer or more conventionally alongside Mediterranean food in the cooler months. Moreish and approachable,  I found it a good value wine to enjoy here and now, saving the contemplation for conversations at the end of the night.

Rating: 89 pts
RRP: $19.95
ABV: 14.5%
Winery Website:

Draytons Heritage Vines Liqueur Verdelho NV

Impressively packaged and presented, the Draytons Heritage Vines Liqueur Verdelho is a seductive and slick wine.
Deep, dark mahogany in colour with waves of dark caramel, espresso, roasted nuts, honey and rancio flavours/characters. The real surprise is the clean, jangly acidity at the back palate and finish, helping to avoid a cloying finish and balancing the powerful flavour hit upfront with a refreshing citrus element. Impressive length, with the flavours lingering nicely.
Given that the Australian winter is almost over, this wine was also delicious when served slightly chilled, so you can drink up in the warmer spring months. An impressive wine in its style.

Rating: 93pts
ABV: 17.5%
RRP: $55

Sunday, August 19, 2012

2007 Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco Rabaja (Piedmont, Italy)

I opened this on a Friday night at home, when I might have normally gone for a less serious, less expensive wine, but from the moment I stuck my nose into it, I knew I’d made the right decision. It delivers that distinctive Nebbiolo perfume that perhaps attracts me more than any other wine, and worryingly sees me paying ever increasing amounts of money for Barbaresco and Barolo. Cherries and florals rise out of the glass before gradually revealing some further notes of tar, chesterfield, and liquorice.

To drink it is medium-bodied, though it builds through the palate as it delivers layer upon layer of beautiful fruit. Complexity is already apparent but will continue to unfold with bottle age. It’s not as overtly tannic as one might expect from a young barbaresco, but the tannins that are there are perfectly ripe and very persistent. Underpinned by lovely acidity. Beautiful wine. The Rabaja vineyard does it again. It’s actually very drinkable now if you’re in the right mood, but will undoubtedly improve over the next decade.

(Rabaja love - Cortese bottles on the left)

RRP: $75
Closure: Cork
Drink to: 2012-2025


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2011 Clonakilla, Viognier Nouveau

I purchased this as the final bottle in a half dozen, and have always been keen to try it, and as a light, drink now, ‘don’t think too hard’ rendition of Viognier, the Clonakilla Viognier Nouveau really delivers.
The wine has an understated spicy ginger, citrus fruit nose (almost tropical). There is juicy fruit texture on the palate with restrained, freshly sliced apricot and peach flavours, finishing relatively crisp, clean and refreshing, avoiding oiliness. This wine struck me as something of a chameleon wine, suitable for most foods in the Riesling-Semillon-Chablis zone. A seriously drinkable, refreshing, easy going Canberran suitable for Christmas stand-down.

Rating: 90+ (for versatility and its refreshing take on Australian Viognier)
RRP: $20-30
ABV: 14%

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wine Wars - Episode IV

Episode IV sees the arrival of legendary natural wine smuggler, Han Solo. After agreeing to take Luke and Obi-Wan to Alderaan, Han has some unexpected run-ins with Pancho Campo and Jay Miller. Click on the link below to see how these encounters unfold . . .

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hahndorf Hill Winery ‘Blueblood’ Blaufränkisch 2010

I am always of two minds when it comes to rare wine varieties grown in Australia. I like the novelty, though often find the wines are more ‘dry red’ than varietal, or at least (and more understandably), something different. The Hahndorf Hill ‘Blueblood’ was, up until recently, the only Blaufränkisch grown in Australia. Unlike a number of the rare/new varieties grown in Australia it delivers.

The Blueblood has a nose with some aniseed, all-spice, traces of white pepper, and as the name suggests, blue fruits. On the palate, integrated oak enmeshes effortlessly with liquorice, aniseed and more blue fruits (with riper blue fruit becoming more apparent with some air). After a day on the tasting bench, white pepper emerged more prominently. There was cleansing acidity and interesting  ripe tannins on the palate.
After 6 days on the tasting bench (an accidental occurrence after another busy working week!) the wine held up nicely –a big surprise. A pleasant smokiness had evolved on the finish, along with salted black liquorice. This wine should cellar nicely.

In summary, an age-worthy ‘point of difference’ wine that is fun to pronounce, will please many, but doesn’t taste like a ‘solid dry red’.

Rating: 93+
Price: $35
ABV: 14%
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