Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Red's Top 5 - 2013

 
 




2013 has been a quieter wine year. Between the day job and a 1 year old son, there isn’t nearly as much time left over for vinous pursuits. That being said there has still been a reasonable amount of consumption, and some real highlights. As ever, this list is not necessarily the 5 highest scoring wines, but the 5 most memorable. These are wines that really stood out and whose tastes still lingered in the memory months after having been imbibed. In alphabetical order -
 

2008 Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir (Macedon) – In an environment of ever increasing interest and quality when it comes to Australian Pinot, and a couple of very good vintages of late in many of the Pinot regions (2010 & 2012), this stood out above them all. At 5 years of age it has really started to hit its stride and should drink beautifully over the next 5 years. Generosity, elegance, and complexity all in one.

2009 Domaine Tempier Bandol (Bandol, France) – Given its relative scarcity, Mourvedre tends not to be a regular part of the drinking diet, but when I drink a good one I wonder why I don't make more of an effort. This wine matches perfectly ripe fruit with those appealing gamey, earthy Mourvedre characteristics. Beautiful, prominent tannins. Should be at its best in another 5 years or so.

2010 Marius Symphony Shiraz (McLaren Vale) – McLaren Vale Shiraz would rarely sit in any favourite list for me. This is not a comment on quality, simply a flavour profile that’s not generally to my liking. The Marius vineyard, however, is a unique bit of dirt in this region that is producing remarkable wine. The 2010 undoubtedly displays regional richness, but there is also a freshness and savouriness to match, and beautiful mouth puckering tannins to boot. Such prominent and quality tannins, the result of a long maceration, mark it out as unique amongst Australian Shiraz.

2012 Mesh Riesling (Eden Valley) – I’m always partial to Eden Valley Riesling, and then when you combine a great vintage like 2012 with the gun winemaking duo of Jeffrey Grosset and Robert Hill Smith, there was always a danger this wine would end up in my top 5. It’s incredibly primary and vinous at this stage, and can be enjoyed as such, but the length and latent detail and complexity will see this wine evolve beautifully over the next decade and beyond.

2011 Oakridge 864 Funder and Diamond Vineyard Drive Block Chardonnay (Yarra Valley) – Not exactly a sexy name, but certainly a sexy wine. Intensity, energy, and length, all within a fine boned framework that will flesh out over the next few years. Great Yarra Valley Chardonnay and a superb addition to the 864 stable.
 
All these wines have found homes in my cellar, and I look forward to drinking and reviewing them as the years roll on.
 
Red

Monday, December 2, 2013

2012 Chatto Pinot Noir (Tasmania)


This is a wine more than 10 years in the making, and a hugely exciting addition to the Pinot Noir landscape. It’s a wine I’ve been looking forward to trying ever since a chat I had with winemaker Jim Chatto while we checked out different Hunter Valley vineyards during the sodden 2012 vintage.
Much of Chatto’s time as a winemaker has been spent, and continues to be in the Hunter Valley where Shiraz and Semillon are the staples. So why a Tasmanian Pinot Noir?

Firstly he is a lover of great Burgundy, and one of those few lucky souls who along with some mates gets a Domaine de la Romanee Conti allocation each year. Not unsurprisingly then, making great Pinot is the dream. To make such a wine, Tasmania became a logical choice. Not only is it something of the Pinot promised land in Australia, but it is where he met his better half, Daisy, while working in Tasmania in the late 90s.
So with the grape and state worked out, the search began for the ideal site in the early noughties. One of the key things Jim was looking for was a southerly site. He’s a strong believer, among other things, in the importance of latitude when it comes to great Pinot. And so it was that Isle Vineyard was landed upon, some 50kms south of Hobart. It’s one of the southernmost vineyards in Tasmania, and therefore Australia. A cool, and potentially marginal place to grow grapes, however the vineyard itself is a warmer, north facing site. And of course that higher latitude provides for just that extra bit of daylight in summer.

Planting of the site began in 2007 with multiple Pinot clones. The view was not only to benefit from the different characteristics multiple clones can bring to a wine, but also as a way to trial these different clones in the vineyard and potentially refine which and how many clones remain as the site becomes better understood over time.
Five years on, with just enough vine maturity, the first vintage of this wine was produced. It’s an exciting first wine, and bottle age may indeed produce something pretty special. Over a few days it revealed an increasingly beautiful nose of dark cherry, some sexy oak, cloves, and an appealing smokiness. To drink it shows lovely palate weight and a bit of viscosity, while never becoming heavy. Spice. A beautiful citrus note, along with some earthiness gradually emerge with time. There’s an intensity and vinous quality to the wine that course right through to its long finish. Very good now. Potentially great in 5 years or so. I considered giving it the 4.5 stars, but for now I'll let some time in the cellar and a plus sign do the work for me. Great debut. 4 Stars +

Rated: 4 Stars +
RRP: $45
ABV: 13.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2022
Website: www.chattowines.com


Red

Saturday, November 16, 2013

2010 Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon (Nagambie Lakes)


There’s an old school honesty and simplicity to Tahbilk’s wines that I find immensely appealing. They are the kind of wines that can age 10-20 years without much of a fuss. And while everyone’s off chasing the next hip wine style, Tahbilk just sit there in Nagambie Lakes punching out Cabernet, Shiraz and Marsanne. Moreover, at under $20 a bottle these wines always represent great value.

The 2010 Cabernet is a lovely medium-bodied claret with just that touch of extra fruit weight one would expect when compared to a French equivalent. Flavours of blackcurrant, cigar box, and a touch of eucalypt. Acid driven and accompanied by fine tannin. As it pushes through the finish, and as it opened up over a few days, a lovely earthiness emerges. Very enjoyable now and I’d reckon it will surprise many how well it evolve over the next 10 years.

Rated:



RRP: $18
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2013-2020+
Website: www.tahbilk.com.au


Red

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

2011 Yelland and Papps Devote Old Vine Grenache


It was 2009 when Red and I visited the Barossa Valley and did a tasting of Yelland and Papps wines in Susan and Michael Papp's dining room (prior to their cellar door opening). From those relatively early years for the winery to the present day, they have expanded their range considerably across three clear price points, all of comparatively high quality.
Despite there being several difficult vintages in the last 5 years, Yelland and Papps have managed to produce good to very good wines in small volume, regardless -or in spite- of vintage.

In contrast to the difficult, mostly heat affected Barossa vintages in recent memory (2003, 2007, 2008), 2011 wet, wet, wet – one of the wettest in decades.  As such, it presented winemakers with a range of different challenges. This has come out in the wines I have tried from this vintage across most regions in Australia. However, 2011 has also presented winemakers with the opportunity to make good wines of a different character to the standard, 'typical vintage' style.
With all of this in mind, I was interested to try one of Yelland and Papps' strongest wines - the Old Vine Grenache. This has been a consistently reliable wine over several years, and once again, it holds its head up in this tricky vintage, adding a stylistic twist.

Tasting Note:
Stalky, herbal nose pinot colour, initially some new leather and varnish, and with air, considerable white pepper.
On opening, medium bodied and savoury. Softening red cherry and raspberry fruit, mixed spice, pleasant herbaceous notes.
Lighter bodied and less intense fruit than in the past, not as primary or rounded, and more restrained with a sharper acidity that adds a bit of zing.  Spicy and peppery to the last.
Another good result from a difficult vintage for Yelland and Papps, and a definite ‘point of difference’ wine based on the several vintages of Devote Old Vine Grenache tasted previously.

ABV:  14.0%
RRP: $35
Score: 90pts

Sunday, November 10, 2013

2008 Campillo Crianza Rioja (Spain)


 
This is just plain yum. Good with food or without, I wouldn’t hesitate in buying this if it was on a wine list and I was ordering for a table of people. A few years ago I would have avoided it exactly because it was a Tempranillo. Funny how your tastes can change with time.

It’s not much more than medium-bodied, but there’s a nice richness here. A cleansing acidity gives it good balance. Flavours of dark fruits, lovely coffee oak, before turning more savoury through the finish with some tobacco notes. Great to drink now, though it should also drink well for the next five years. Drinkability to the fore here.

Rated:



RRP: $30 approx.
Closure: Cork
Drink: 2013-2018
Website: www.bodegascampillo.com


Red

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vision realised: Avani Winery - Mornington Peninsula


Davendra and Shashi Singh are like many small-scale winemakers we have met on our travels. They have a passion for their craft and work hard to realise their vision. In their case, enough passion and daring to strike out beyond their successful restaurant businesses and take the considerable step of buying their own winery. This move occurred in 1998 when they purchased Wildcroft Estate, located south of Red Hill in the Mornington Peninsula. From 2000, Philip Jones of the Bass Phillip winery made Avani’s wines, with Shashi’s role in the winemaking process increasing from 2004 onwards.

Some reasonably young Syrah vines grafted onto older vines.
Halfway down the vineyard at the transition point from red to grey soil
As we walked with Shashi and Davendra through their winery and vineyard in early October, it was difficult not to be impressed by their enthusiasm, though also their boldness: Avani are possibly unique in the Mornington Peninsula (and if not, only one of a handful of wineries) to exclusively produce Syrah (quite rightly named given the style they aim for).
When asked about the exclusive production of Syrah, Shashi explained that following several vintages where Syrah stood out, they decided to take the advice of Phillip Jones, as well as trusting their own palates, replanting a conventional suite of Mornington grape varieties with Syrah. Shashi explained that they had initially aimed to make Pinot Noir using Bass Phillip's Pinot Noir as a (very high) benchmark. When the first few vintages turned out to be successful, though not exceptional wines (in their view), they decided to focus on the grape most assisted by the terroir. Acknowledging the time it takes, and the financial risks involved, it is still refreshing to see winemakers taking a punt to make wine based on the varieties that are empirically superior when grown on a given site, rather than persisting with a variety unsuited to the region and/or terroir.

Walking further down the sloping north facing Avani vineyard, the soil transitioned from deep red volcanic clay near the winery, to a slatey, alluvial grey lower down. Davendra and Shashi shared with us the journey they have taken developing the winery and vineyard over the last 15 years. This included the ongoing process of rehabilitating the vineyard, transforming it gradually from a conventional winemaking operation to an organic and biodynamic one, dramatically reducing the cropping levels while increasing the vine density.

Shashi and Davendra were rightly proud of the positive impact organic and biodynamic farming practices were having on the health of the soil (and as we would find out later that morning, on the wines themselves). The soil was healthy: soft underfoot with lush grass and plant life nearby.

The Avani vineyard, 3/4 down, looking toward the winery
Shashi and Davendra are now 100% in control of the whole winemaking process, with the 2012 vintage being the first made exclusively on site. A vertical tasting of the 2009, 2011 and an in-barrel taste of the 2012 confirmed that the wines being produced at Avani are on the improve as the younger vines on the vineyard mature, and as the increasingly confident winemaking is honed and perfected.

As we both left the winery on the sunny spring morning, it was clear that the story of Avani was one that should appeal to the hearts, minds and palates of drinkers keen to try small output, hand-made, honest yet exciting wines.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

2012 Teusner Avatar (Barossa Valley)


This is such a good wine. I’ve had some superb Melton Nine Popes over the years but this might be the best Barossa GSM I’ve tried.  Grenache 40%, Shiraz 30% Mataro 30%.

Stick your nose into a glass of this and big smile is sure to follow. A beautiful bouquet that evolved over a couple of days with aromas of berries, florals, chocolate oak, five spice and orange peel. To drink it is eminently smashable but the quality and complexity on offer encourage you to savour and sip slowly. Juicy, pitch perfect ripeness, and with a long, savoury finish. Lovely chocolate, spice, and a stony minerality are the signature flavours. Can be found for around $30 and is worth every penny. Drink now or at anytime over the next decade.

Rated:



RRP: $35
ABV:14.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2013-2022
Website: www.teusner.com.au


Red

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2012 Mayer Close Planted Pinot Noir (Yarra Valley)


Gembrook Hill, PHI, and Hoddles Creek are my go to Yarra Pinots. Budget permitting I’m going to have to add Mayer to my list. Of course, Timo Mayer, the winemaker here is also part of the winemaking duo at Gembrook Hill.

It starts with a lovely perfumed nose with beautiful sweet cherry to the fore. Great to drink with generous, almost viscous dark cherry fruit. It nevertheless retains a lightness of feel, underpinned by a prominent acidity and some minerally notes. Latent complexity and length in spades. Very good now and likely great in 5 years or so.

Rated:
+


RRP: $55
ABV: 13.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2022+
Website: www.timomayer.com.au


Red

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thousand Minarets - RedtoBrown's gift to the wine world . . .


 

Growing up as kids there was a hill in Sydney we used to slide down on pieces of cardboard. That hill had a little patch with some Thompson seedless grapes growing wild. We’d have a nibble on these every now and then, and it was oft remarked how sweet and succulent these grapes were. These innocent beginnings were to lead to the greatness that has become Thousand Minarets.

25 years on from those cardboard rides, the hill was rediscovered, albeit in a run-down state. How would a vineyard go here? That was the question we posed to ourselves. The Thompson seedless still certainly tasted good and it was cheaper than buying a site that actually had pedigree. This was enough to see us purchase the hill and plant it to Cabernet and other Bordeaux varieties. Meanwhile that little patch of the Thompson seedless was to be retained and nurtured to add a certain je ne sais quoi to the vineyard.

We set about thinking of what wine we could make from this unique site and came up with Thousand Minarets. Brown explains, “There’s just so much inspiration out there at the moment. Whether it’s a Thousand Candles charging a premium price for a red wine with some non-descript white wine added, Parawa Estate charging $1100 for a wine produced from 5 year old vines, or Dave Powell flogging a $900 wine to fund $90,000 strip club benders, we’ve just had so much to draw from. At the end of the day, we settled on Thousand Minarets, which looks to bring the best elements of all those other wines into one”.

This lofty goal can only be underpinned by a special terroir. The hill itself is marked out by a unique buckshot gravel and a quaint little stream running through the middle of it. The stream can sometimes become a torrent when the stormwater drain at the top of the hill, an integral part of the Sydney sewer system, overflows. We think this only adds to the unique complexity of flavour the fruit displays. Some may call it funk.

The vineyard is hand tended. Hand pruned. And before being hand-picked, each bunch of grapes receives a gentle cupping. This cupping and picking only occurs on a crescent moon, after which the grapes are hand sorted by elves in the winery.

There is minimal winemaking. From vineyard straight to barrel. Frogs included. For oak treatment we bought the world’s most expensive Dominique Laurent oak, which leaks worse than an ALP cabinet meeting, but certainly helps justify the wine's price tag.

When assessing the overall cost of this labour of love, which was boldly looking to combine the best of Thousand Candles, Parawa Estate, and the Laird, we thought the best way to price our wine was simply to add the prices together. A clean $2,100 per bottle. We may not know our PHs from our P Diddys, but we know how to price a fine wine.

And where is my sample you may ask? Well this is the response Red gave, ”We refuse to have these wines regarded at a level below the finest red wines in the world. In blind tastings involving Masters of Wine, they have held their own or surpassed some of the iconic names, recognised by wine aficionados.” Or put another way, the wine is just going to Asian markets so no need to be giving you guys freebies, especially when we have an $2060 margin on each wine.


Thousand Minarets – taste the artifice

*Article embargoed in Australia until the first case is sold sight unseen on the Hong Kong market.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2012 Montalto Pennon Hill Pinot Noir (Mornington Peninsula)

 
This is Montalto’s entry level Pinot and I reckon this goes really well as a bistro wine. It has plenty of flavour but retains a lightness and appealing pinosity. Flavours of cherry, five spice and a hint of smokiness. Oak is a nice contributor. Lovely mid palate richness in a loose knit structure. Nice wine if a touch dear.

Rated:



RRP: $30
ABV: 13.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2013-2017


Red

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

2012 Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir (Yarra Valley)


This wine has become one of my automatic cellar inclusions each year. The 2012 keeps up the superb value for money tradition.
Needs another year or so in bottle but it’s already pretty damn drinkable. It’s lithe, balanced and has a nice touch of mid-palate richness. Flavours of cherry, five spice, orange peel, and touches of smokiness and undergrowth. Oak is nicely integrated.  I think this wine might be at its most enjoyable over the next few years, but the fruit, structure, and balance all suggest it will go the long haul as well.

Rated: 4 Stars
RRP: $19
ABV: 13.2%
Drink: 2014-2021
Website: www.hoddlescreek.com.au


Red

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2012 Head Old Vines Grenache (Barossa Valley)


The 2010 of this wine remains one of the best bottles of Grenache I have had. The 2012 is not as immediately impressive, but in fact everything is there to suggest that it may give the 2010 a run for its money in 5-10 years time.
It’s just medium bodied, lithe, juicy, and with a lovely core of drying acidity that will sustain the wine through extended cellaring. Redskins, raspberries, florals, spice and just a hint of aniseed. A bit of stalkiness too. It turns very savoury as it pushes through to a long finish. Another 5 years should see more flesh, complexity and ultimately enjoyment here. Impressive.

Rated: 4 Stars +
RRP: $40
ABV: 14.5%
Drink: 2015-2022+
Closure: Screwcap
Website: www.headwines.com.au


Red

Monday, August 19, 2013

2011 Oakridge 864 Chardonnay (Funder & Diamond Vineyard, Yarra Valley)


I reckon Sorrenberg, Hoddles Creek 1er, and this wine, the Oakridge 864, are currently my 3 favourite chardonnays.
This takes a day or so to open up at this stage, but once it does it reveals a superb, exciting Yarra Valley Chardonnay. It’s fine boned, but still has a beautiful lime intensity to the fruit. A dry, almost spritzy undercarriage is balanced by a lovely touch of creaminess, subtle oak spice, and an appealing cheesy note. It fairly bristles through the long finish. In another couple of years, once it has built some more weight, it will drink beautifully.

Rated:



RRP: $75
ABV: 13.4%
Drink: 2015-2021
Closure: Screwcap
Website: www.oakridgewines.com.au


Red

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

2012 Scarborough Green Label Semillon


If asked to describe the Scarborough winery to friends, two things spring to mind: they provide one of the best cellar door experiences in the Hunter Valley and have a range of wines with clear intent and purpose.  

In regards to the latter comment, Scarborough has two semillons in their range that offer a clear point of difference. The Green Label Semillon is Scarborough’s early drinking, approachable take on the variety, with the pricier White Label being more austere-when-young and cellar-worthy.

The Green Label Semillon has a ripe nose of lemon, with crunchy granny smith apple, passionfruit, apple blossom and a hint of green pear. On the palate the wine has refreshing acidity that cleanses, is not sharp or harsh and has generous lemon/lemon pith flavours at the back. The finish is clean and dry.

The Green Label is arguably ripe in the context of young Hunter Semillon while not trying to be something the variety is not– a positive example of a ‘drink now’ white wine that is approachable with broad appeal, yet does not have to imitate the hegemonic Sauvignon Blanc style.

This would match nicely with seafood, poached chicken or even pork fillet in the approaching spring months.

Rating: 90pts
ABV: 11.2%
RRP: $20

Sunday, August 11, 2013

2006 Helm Classic Dry Riesling (Canberra District)


     (Bottles of Helm wine from around the world)

While Shiraz and Shiraz Viognier have been the stars during Canberra’s emergence as a wine region, its Riesling is also very impressive. Ken Helm has been to the forefront of the development of this synergy between variety and region. Helm is one of the Canberra pioneers, having established his vineyard in 1973. Riesling has evidently been his passion since then, and his offerings are arguably the best in the region.
In relative terms the Classic Dry is the approachable, entry level wine, while Helm’s Premium Riesling is built to age. In saying that the Classic Dry is no simple quaffer, warranting plenty of consideration and taking age. The 2006 is a prime example. At 7 years of age it is right in the groove and drinking beautifully. It’s still fresh and vibrant, but with age has come some generosity and complexity. Flavours of citrus and apple blossom are married with some beautiful honeyed notes, all of which are underpinned by lovely acidity. There’s a minerality akin to driveway gravel that accompanies the long finish. This will continue to age, though personally I’d reckon it’s at its peak about now and I’d struggle to keep my hands off it such is the enjoyment to be had.

Rated:



Drink: 2013-2016
RRP: $25
Closure: Screwcap
Website: www.helmwines.com.au


Red

Sunday, August 4, 2013

2011 Yelland & Papps Devote Greenock Shiraz (Barossa Valley)


A good wine from a tough vintage. A seductive nose of berries, chocolate and a hint of tar. To drink its medium-full bodied, with an appealing liquorice all sorts note. A creamy texture is underpinned by good acidity. Just a hint of mulch a signpost to the wet vintage. If you like your Barossa Shiraz just a touch understated this is lovely drinking.

Rated:



RRP: $35
ABV: 13.7%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2013-2016
Website: www.yellandandpapps.com


Red

Saturday, July 27, 2013

2008 Bindi Original Vineyard Pinot Noir (Macedon)


When I first tried this wine a few years back it stood out as one of the best Pinot Noirs I had had. Trying it at five years of age just recently, and having had plenty of impressive Pinot in the interim, my view on this wine hasn't changed.

This is just a beautiful Pinot to smell. So perfumed, it reveal aromas of strawberries, dark cherries, cinnamon, and ginger. Once you've had your fill of the bouquet you'll find pitch perfect balance on the palate between generosity and elegance. All those lovely flavours are restrained and framed by fine acidity and tannins. A hint of stalkiness and an appealing note of orange peel add further complexity, before it finishes with great length and purpose.

Great now, and possibly even better in another 5 years time. Luckily I have another bottle left in the cellar.

Rated:



RRP: $70
Drink: 2013-2018+
Closure: Diam
ABV: 13.5%
Website: www.bindwines.com.au


Red

Sunday, July 14, 2013

2012 Hoddles Creek Chardonnay (Yarra Valley)


A part of the amazing affordability that Hoddles Creek offers is driven by the fact that winemaker Franco D’anna releases his wines very early. The downside to this is that when you excitedly crack open what you are pretty sure is going to be a damn good wine, you are often left a bit underwhelmed on day 1 by something that seems a bit disjointed and raw.

And so it was with this wine. Never fear though. By day 3 this was singing. Lovely citrus and grapefruit meets some appealing funk, mainly a cheesy funk that is. Intensity, generosity and stonefruit sweetness through the mid-palate, which carries through to a lengthy finish. Nutty and spicy notes are sprinkled in there for good measure. 

Give it a couple of years and there will be much chardonnay joy to be had with this little number.

 
Rated:
+


Drink: 2015-2020
RRP: $19
ABV: 13.2%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: www.hoddlescreekestate.com.au



Red

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2011 Tarrawarra Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne



Provided all of the components to this type of blend are made with care, I enjoy a good Australian white Rhone blend. 2011 was a difficult vintage in most regions, including the Yarra Valley, so I was interested to see how this presented on the tasting bench.

The wine has a pretty, slightly sweet bouquet of orange blossom, freshly cut apricots and some citrus fruits. In the mouth the textural qualities of the wine dominate: rounded yet not flabby, the wine spreads across the palate without flooding it. There is a pleasant grassiness on the mid palate, with a savoury, spicy and slightly bitter finish that includes orange peel, some sugared ginger and finely grated fresh ginger.

There are some interesting textural and acidity interplay with this wine that might please or put people off, while the finish is subtly spicy and pleasantly bitter which may also polarize. Regardless, I found this a cleansing, interesting wine from a very difficult vintage.

Rating: 88pts
ABV: 12.5%
RRP: $30

Website:  www.tarrawarra.com.au
 

 
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