Monday, May 28, 2012

2010 Tarrawarra K-Block Merlot (Yarra Valley)


From the wonderful 2010 vintage in the Yarra Valley, Clare Halloran has crafted a serious, savoury Australian Merlot. No mean feat. This wine vindicates the decision in 2006 to graft over an old, yet underperforming Pinot block with an Italian Merlot clone.

Put simply, this smells great and tastes even better. The balance of beautiful plummy fruit and a deep, smoky, savouriness keeps you coming back for more. A real spiciness contributes to the sense of texture, and notes of black olive and dried herbs add further interest. Underpinning these great flavours is structure. Fine tannins, nice acidity, and excellent length mark it out as a wine that has an eye to the future. Ultimately it is wonderfully moreish and over two nights was consumed with some gusto.

To my mind Merlot is one of those grapes that eludes cheap and cheerful expressions. You either have to be aiming high, or you may as well not try at all. Tarrawarra have chosen the former, and with the 2010 K-block have joined a very small, but select group of Australian winemakers making memorable Merlot. 4 Stars +

Rated:
+
 
 
RRP: $35
ABV: 14.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2012-2022
Website: http://www.tarrawarra.com.au/
 
 
Red

Saturday, May 26, 2012

2006 Deisen Mataro (Barossa Valley)


This was an interesting wine for me personally to pull out of the cellar. I bought it when Brown and I (and our better halves) visited Deisen during a trip to the Barossa in 2009. If ever there was an artisan winery, then Deisen is it. An artist cum winemaker in Sabine Deisen, a pretty vineyard, a winery that looks more like a garage, and hand crafted wine labels all contribute to that artisan feel.

The wines we tried during the visit to Deisen were all impressive, but they also all tended to be fairly powerful, high-alcohol versions of what the Barossa has to offer. The question with any wine made in this style is always will it age? Is it the kind of wine best enjoyed young, or can it transition to something that mellows and develops? I think I’m probably better now than I was back in 2009 at identifying which wines end up being the latter. As such it is interesting to come back to this Deisen Mataro to see whether it has aged nicely, or whether I was seduced at the time by a wine that ultimately didn’t have the staying power.

I tasted the wine over three days and it became increasingly savoury and integrated in that time. To drink it initially tastes as much of the Barossa as it does Mataro. Site and variety have married well in this instance. Over time flavours spanned from dark berry and chocolate, a prominent Mataro spice, through to Barossan tar, some lovely tobacco, and finally some leathery notes that began to emerge. Complexity and enjoyment at once. While there is enough oomph to this wine to keep any Barossa drinker happy, there is also a sense of freshness to the fruit that is great to see at 6 years of age. My score on day 1 was 3.5 Stars, but that improvement over time saw it nudge up to 4 stars.

Has this wine aged well? Absolutely. Will it continue to do so? Yes, for at least the next five years . . . cork permitting of course.

Rated:



ABV: 14.6%
RRP: $35
Closure: Cork


Red

Sunday, May 20, 2012

2009 Casa Santos Lima Quinta Das Setencostas White (Alenquer, Portugal)


Portugese whites are as yet largely unexplored territory for me. I picked this up looking for a wine to cook with, but as sometimes turns out to be the case, it ended up being a more than a worthy drink as well.

It’s a blend of Fernao Pires, Arinto, Rabo del Ovelha, Vital, and Chardonnay. I know a little bit about that last grape, but the preceeding four varieties are largely a mystery to me, but you can read some useful information on them here - http://www.winesofportugal.info/  

Lovely honeyed pear and apple is balanced by an appealing sea salt brine note that runs the course of the wine. These flavours are delivered with a refined line and length that mark it out from most other white wines at this price point. A dry, nutty finish adds appeal and interest. It’s great with seafood, but has developed enough fruit richness to go with white meats as well. Fantastic white wine at the price. Drink up.






Rated:



RRP: $12-$15
ABV: 13.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.casasantoslima.com/

Thursday, May 17, 2012

2008 Domaine de Vauroux Chablis Montee de Tonnerre 1er Cru (Chablis)


Stephen Tanzer has labelled Montée de Tonnerre as the insider’s Chablis premier cru. He describes the site as being “situated just to the southeast of the unbroken strip of Chablis grand crus on the right bank of the river Serein (it’s separated from Les Blanchots only by a narrow ravine). It enjoys a similar geographic profile, rich in the same Kimmeridgian limestoney chalk that makes the grand crus some of the world’s most cerebral, complex and distinctive examples of chardonnay.”

Given this context I was pretty excited to try this wine, especially with 2008 apparently being a pretty decent Chablis vintage.

The generosity of fruit was a positive surprise for me. Where I was expecting steel I instead found some lovely stonefruit and citrus notes. Before the wine gets away from itself in its generosity, however, it’s pulled taut by a lovely line of acidity. A tell-tale chalky minerality adds interest and appeal as the wine pushes through a very long finish. Nice. It's ready to drink now, and will also continue to drink well over the next few years.

As an aside, this is the kind of wine that just reinforces how fantastic Australian Chardonnay has become over the past decade or so. It's from one of the best Premier Cru’s in Chablis from a good vintage, and yet I can think of numerous Australian Chardonnays that could comfortably sit alongside this wine, and indeed even surpass it from a quality perspective. And that’s in no way detracting from what is a beautiful wine here, and of course that chalky minerality marks it out as unique from many local offerings.

Rated:



RRP: $40-$50
Closure: Cork


Red

Sunday, May 13, 2012

2008 Bloodwood Shiraz (Orange)



Northern Rhone. That’s the first thing I thought when I stuck my nose into this. Of course it is from the Bloodwood estate in Orange, and is unique in its own way, but it’s an option as an affordable Northern Rhone-like hit if that’s your thing.

Sichuan peppercorns, dark berries, and a bit of meatiness. It’s a distinctive and appealing nose. To drink it is highly enjoyable in its unforced, medium-bodied form. Dark berry fruit is soon joined by spice, pepper, lovely oak, and an appealing hint of funky barnyard. Not always a fan of peppery, cool-climate Shiraz but certainly enjoyed drinking this. It should age gracefully. Nice wine.

Rated:
 
 

RRP: $30
ABV: 14.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.bloodwood.biz/
 
 
Red

Thursday, May 10, 2012

2006 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz


Coming from my second favourite South Australian red wine vintage of the decade, the 2006 Bin 389 was a well-regarded wine on release. I have read some recent reviews stating it is looking a bit big and bold, so I was interested to see how the wine had developed in the bottle:

Sweet cedar and vanilla oak on the nose with considerable sweet, dark spices /all spice: seductive, perfumed, and heady.
On the palate,  a nice mix of powerful sweet, dark fruits: considerable blackberry, blackcurrents, cassis and aniseed. Initially, the tannins are robust, though softened somewhat with more air. The wine finishes with nice length, sweet with traces of oaky milk chocolate and spiced mocha.

At this stage of its development, a powerful, sweet and seductive wine. It may not please the purists, cool climate cognoscenti or the sultans of subtle, but it will seduce or at least satisfy a majority of Australian red wine drinkers. Interested to see how it ages, given the oodles of nice fruit and oak on display.


Rating: 95pts
RRP: $55-65
ABV: 14.5%
Website: http://www.penfolds.com/



Saturday, May 5, 2012

2009 Philip Shaw No.17 (Orange)


Philip Shaw is of the belief that Merlot can become a star in the Orange region, and based on this wine it would be hard to disagree. It was one of a number of Bordeaux blends that I was highly impressed by during my trip to Orange over Easter. 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 10% Shiraz.

It takes a while to open up in the glass, but once you’ve given it some time it drinks beautifully. Great structure and great flavours here. It’s a medium bodied wine of beautiful balance. Lovely natural acidity, fine tannins, and great persistence of finish. Ripe red fruits are balanced by spice, roses, and some Cab Franc grassiness. Overall, these flavours provide a lovely savoury edge to this wine. I tasted this over 3 days, and it was that last mouthful that was the most complex and complete. A place in the cellar is warranted and at $25 it is fantastic value to.

Rated:



RRP: $25
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.philipshaw.com.au/


Red

 
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