Sunday, November 9, 2014

2014 Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner (Canberra District)

A quality addition to the Lark Hill Gruner stable, albeit that it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the superb 2013. Given the challenges of the 2014 vintage in Canberra district, moreover, it is testament to the Carpenter's pursuit of this unique variety (unique in Australia in any case) over the past decade. 

With this wine there is always a flavour profile that offers plenty of interest while still delivering on the yum factor. Citrus and pear is offset by some green bean and root vegetable flavours. Somewhat weird if you weren’t expecting it, but it nevertheless works and is very enjoyable to drink. Good quality fruit is underpinned by a prominent acidity and a nice chalky texture. A worthy change-up to my summer diet of Riesling and it should drink well over the next 5 years and beyond. Over the line for 4 stars.
Rated: 4 Stars
RRP: $45
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2020+

Monday, October 27, 2014

2012 Marius Simpatico Shiraz (McLaren Vale)

This is possibly the best Shiraz I have had this year. It takes a day or so to really open up at this stage of its life, but once it does it's all glory. The Simpatico, of course, sits behind the Symphony, which is Roger Pike’s top wine and comes off a select block of fruit in his vineyard. At the moment, however, the Symphony is raw and way too young to be drinking. For now there is more on offer from the Simpatico.

Seductive nose. Aromas of berries, McLaren vale chocolate, a deep earthiness, and roses. Indeed those floral notes really mark the wine out, with rose notes flowing through to a beautiful mouth perfume that envelops the wine. It never gets much above medium bodied, but the fruit has an undoubted power and ripeness. Persistent tannins help shape the wine through its long finish. Top shelf and one to cellar.
Rated: 4.5 Stars
RRP: $35
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2016-2027

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What’s 97 points between friends?

I’ve been meaning to write this piece for a couple of years now but in the ensuing time a little boy, moving house, and a new job have all conspired to give me an excuse not to write it. Recent events, however, have brought back a bit of fire to the belly.

The issue is the growing irrelevance of the 100 point scoring system, rendered largely useless by the artificially inflated scores of many prominent wine critics.

Without going into the full detail of the 100 point scoring system, historically wines scoring in the 70s had significant issues/flaws, wines in the 80s were decent quality drinkable wines, while wines of 90 and above were excellent, and 95 and above were benchmark, world class wines. There will be debates at the margins in terms of what I have just described, but it roughly captures the original design and usage of the scoring system that has dominated wine appraisal over the past 3 decades.

Like any scoring system it has strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths is the ability to have a wide range of scores available to you to make both nuanced and large score differentials between wines. When you score one wine 92 and another 91, you are making a distinction that isn’t available to say a 5 star system (something I still use). This advantage of the 100 point system, however, has been much diminished in recent years.

Points Inflation

The past decade or so has seen an inflation of points scoring from a significant number of prominent critics. It has been a gradual but undoubted trend. In particular, wines scoring 95 and above abound in a way they never have before. Examples are legion, but perhaps the most infamous of recent times was the eighteen 100 point scores Robert Parker delivered for 2009 Bordeaux. Only a few years previously he had delivered only two 100 point wines from a similarly lauded Bordeaux vintage, that being 2005.

The local example, but by no means the only one, is James Halliday. He is undoubtedly Australia’s most famous wine critic, and someone I have always greatly admired. What has happened over the past decade however, has been an increasing points creep in his scoring that has almost moved to the point of farce. A decade ago, had I read a review of his that rated a reasonably priced wine at 93 points, my interest would have been piqued. In more recent years the equivalent quality wine would almost inevitably get something like a 96 point score. Accordingly, I’ve found myself in what seems like the ridiculous situation of largely ignoring any Halliday reviews for wines scoring less than 96 points. It seems like I will have to revise that up again now, with Halliday awarding a 97 point score to a whopping 166 wines in his latest annual guide, 98 points to 24 wines, and 99 points to a further two.

Undoubtedly in this tally are some genuinely world class, benchmark wines. But looking through those awarded 97 points, there are many that are not. A case in point is the 2012 St Hallett’s Blackwell Shiraz from the Barossa Valley which Halliday gave 97. It’s a wine I’ve generally really enjoyed most vintages and when I tasted the 2012 over 3 days recently I once again found it to be an excellent wine. It was to my mind a 92/93 point wine, which particularly given the $25 price tag makes it a fantastic buy if you enjoy your Barossa Shiraz, and a wine I would highly recommend. Having said this, it is not a benchmark wine, and I don’t think any serious consideration of this wine would label it as profound.

Moving beyond just Halliday, more recently there has been a frenzy around the release of the 2010 Penfolds Grange. This is undoubtedly one of Australia’s greatest wines and 2010 was a very good vintage in South Australia. That it would therefore get some very high scores upon release is no surprise. However, as with the broader trend of points inflation, Grange score inflation has followed suit. To the point now where this wine has already received 100 point scores upon release from critics like Andrew Caillard MW,  Nick Stock, and Tyson Stelzer. Never mind that this is a wine that typically takes a couple of decades to reveal its full potential, it has been given a hat-trick of perfect scores straight off the bat. What happens when these critics taste and score the wine in 20 years time, once the wine is in full bloom, is anyone’s guess.   

Of course not every critic has joined in this arms race, and I hope those that continue to show restraint will hold the line. However, my inbox now receives so many daily offers of wines that have been rated 95, 96, and 97 points by a prominent critic that it would appear that world class wine is simply a mouse ckick away. What has happened in the past decade has made the distinction between truly great wine and very good wine difficult to discern.

Does any of this even matter?

Plenty of people have suggested it’s not really a big deal, and that we should just take a cup of tea, a bex and a good lie down. Some of the typical refrains are -

Scoring wine is a nonsense in the first place, so who cares

A score stakes a claim as to your genuine opinion on the wine, or anything that you’re critiquing for that matter. People argue to the contrary that you should just read the tasting note and make an assessment from there. For mine, with a tasting note alone it is virtually impossible to both genuinely convey the quality, flavours and textures of a wine in a way that consumers can easily get their heads around, while also subsequently enabling them to compare and contrast different options available to them. I’ve increasingly come to the view that a tasting note without a score is a bit meaningless. They compliment one another. Scoring wine remains important.

As long as the range used is consistent what does it matter?

Have a think about anything else in life that is scored (movies, restaurants, the credit ratings of banks). Imagine now that you just decide to move everything up a notch. A David and Margaret reviewed 3 star movie (At The Movies), which has always been the kind of solid, ok movie that you would watch if it’s in your style or there is nothing else to watch, now becomes a recommended 3.5 or 4 star movie. In this new regime, the scoring might be consistent, but it is far less meaningful. The critic is not doing their job of sorting the wheat from the chaff. With the scoring of wine it is no different.

If you don’t like the way the critic scores just ignore it?

Unfortunately that’s not really possible. I guess if it was largely irrelevant bloggers like myself that were throwing out 97 points with gay abandon then yes it would be possible to ignore. People like Parker and Halliday and other critics, however, are too ubiquitous in their respective areas of focus. They have an affect. If you are passionate about wine, you can’t just ignore them or the issue more broadly.


Wine criticism is a profession riven with conflicts of interest (a topic for another day). However, I used to be of the belief that these conflicts could largely be managed. However, it seems I was wrong. The plethora of overrated wine about the place would appear to be evidence of this. Ultimately I believe it’s incumbent on people who are scoring things in their professional fields to show a level of restraint and integrity in the way they rate things. Giving everyone a guernsey does no one any good in the long term.

In my day job I’m involved in reviewing and rating investment opportunities for clients. I know that if I were to adopt the Parker or Halliday approach to my scoring I might make some fund managers happy in the short-term, but my credibility would ultimately come under question, and in the end I would be out of a job. Admittedly overrating a wine won’t have the same consequences as putting someone’s life savings in a dud investment, but I’ve got no doubt that if this points inflation trend continues, critics might ultimately find themselves out of a gig. There are only so many times a consumer will buy what they are told is a 96 point wine before it starts to become shorthand for just a solid bottle of wine, at which point how relevant is a wine critic?


Saturday, September 27, 2014

2013 Montalto Chardonnays - Mornington Peninsula

Simon Black is starting to produce some pretty smart wine at Montalto. Brown and I had the chance to visit him last year at the winery and taste through a range of barrel samples and there was plenty to like then. You also got the sense that things are on the up as Black improves the vineyards he has, and comes to understand these sites more intimately over time.

I tasted both the entry level Pennon Hill and the Estate Chardonnay over 3 days.

2013 Montalto Pennon Hill Chardonnay – This punches well above its entry level tag and registers very highly in terms of yum factor. Lovely fruit has gone into this wine. Stonefruits, cashews, creaminess, and a bit of oak spice. Generous yet restrained, it’s all underpinned by a fine acidity. Pushes through to a savoury, citrusy finish. If this was your house chardonnay over the next few years you would be very happy.
Rated: 92
RRP: $23
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2018

2013 Montalto Estate Chardonnay – Just shows a bit more class than the Pennon Hill. More palate weight but also greater definition in the wine’s line and length. Generous stonefruit, grapefruit, cashews and a nice input from the oak. It also displays a bit of flintiness, adding complexity. Classy chardonnay, and worth leaving alone for a couple of years before opening.

Rated: 93+
RRP: $39
ABV: 13.2%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2016-2020


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nickleback's Chad Kroeger to release a shredding range of new premium wines (RedtoBrown News EXCLUSIVE)

Chad hopes his new range of wines
shred as much as his soft rock mega-hits.
 The wine world is utterly abuzz at the news Chad Kroeger from Canadian rock band Nickleback will be joining the ranks of Rock n Roll wine makers by releasing his own range of premium wines under the Chateau Kroeger label. The announcement puts Chad in the same company as Maynard James Keenan of rock band Tool, and was confirmed during a press conference in the Nickleback tour bus as the band moved east to New York as part of their worldwide tour. In the conference, Kroger outed himself as a born-again wine fan. “My wife, Avril is part-French, so she was weaned on Beaujolais nouveau and loves moscato, tequila and grapefruit shooters. I also love the stuff, having drunk lots of Kristal and Grey Goose in my time. Her passion has been infectious on so many levels, and wine is one of them”.

The first wine in the Chateau Kroeger range will be the “How You Remind Me Cuvee”, an ambitious non-vintage blend of Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Moscato, matured in new American oak and infused with maple syrup essence and vanilla musk. It comes in a black glass bottle shaped as a fender Stratocaster. The second in the range is the “Photograph Sparkling NV” a blend of white zinfandel, Thompson seedless, and brandy, topped up with 1982 vintage Kristal. Each bottle of the Sparkling NV will have a 50ml vial of a Chad and Avril perfume to really add to the romance of this premium wine.

The Photograph Sparkling NV is in many ways
 a tribute to Chad's love of wife Avril (inset).

"These wines rock, but have a softer, more stylish side, just like me and my buddies” Kroeger gushed. “We drink the test batches in the dressing rooms all the time. It gets us pumped before we shred on the power ballads”.
Kroeger described his wine making philosophy and the genesis of his wine label during an interactive portion of the announcement.  “I aim to make honest wine, with minimal intervention from the winemaker, sincere and true wine, just like my tunes”. Kroeger revealed his wine making techniques to the enthusiastic crowd, including playing acoustic versions of Nickleback’s greatest hits to the truckloads of grapes shipped-in from Nevada.
“I reserve the love songs I have written for Avril when playing to the grapes that go into the “Photograph Sparkling NV”. I think they taste sweeter and more sincere as a result. It is hard for the winery staff to go about their day jobs when I go to that special musical place. Tears flow, I have to admit”.
 Chad has been know to connect with
 the grapes prior to them
going into his premium wines.
When asked about the inspiration behind Chateau Kroeger, Chad recounted the moment he spoke to Maynard from Tool about his Caduceus wine label – a discussion that convinced him to pursue his wine making dream. “I told Maynard that his wines rocked even harder than his Lateralus record. He called me a lightweight and told me to fuck off, but his enthusiasm and energy was infectious. My wine dream was born that day”.
Maynard James Keenan (inset) 
refused to be quoted for this article.
The Chateau Kroeger How You Remind Me Cuvee and Photograph Sparkling NV go on sale next week for $US 450 and $US 790 respectively. They can be purchased from any Wallmart or 7-11 Stores across the USA and Canada.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Harkham Wines - Natural wine with a smile (Hunter Valley)

Maintaining a wine blog when you have a young family is tough, tougher when you combine it with a busy day job. The wine appreciation never stops, (nor do the recording of tasting notes, TBH) though the volume of articles being posted tends to inevitably decline. The post below should have been put on the blog over a year ago – the hospitality and enthusiasm of Richie Harkham demanded it, even if the quality of the writing in the post doesn’t quite. Regardless, this post was lost in the mix, and I have stumbled-upon it, dusted it off and posted it for the record. Tasting notes are from early October 2012. Thanks to Ritchie for taking time out of his day back in 2012.

The wine making industry loves ‘the next big thing’, especially when it polarizes opinions and has the potential to attract new customers to wine. In the last few years organic/biodynamic wine making practices and in particular, ‘natural wine’, have assumed this status. The growing trend of producing, selling and drinking natural wine polarises opinions amongst industry types, wine nerds and the wine cognoscenti.

While RedtoBrown have made light of natural wine in some of our posts (the ongoing ‘Wine Wars’ series of video clips being the most obvious example), on a serious note we have never shifted our focus away from the subjective assessment of the quality of the wine in the bottle for any given wine maker – be it natural or not.  If I like the taste of the wine, I like the wine: a tear-inducing, inspirational story behind the making of a wine does not mean I will enjoy drinking it.

With that elongated intro out of the way, my family headed to the Hunter Valley last October (editors note: 2012), for a relaxing few days. On recommendation of a wine friend, one of the wineries we visited was Harkham Windarra.

Owner and winemaker, Richard Harkham (Ritchie) has an infectious passion for his craft. Harkham is one of the few, (if not the only) Hunter Valley-based wineries making natural wine. This may be due to the regions successful battle with bret over the last 20 years, though it does seem strange that the major wine region closest to Sydney (the natural wine consumer capital of Australia) is not jumping on the bandwagon with more gusto.

When we met, Ritchie summed-up his winemaking philosophy as aiming for a wine that will be “as close to nature as you can get”. Ritchie noted winemakers tend to intervene too much in the winemaking process, and he tried to intervene only when necessary in a way that is done through positive energy in the cellar. As Ritchie noted, “wine is alive and always living and changing.”

Our tasting was a bit rushed, with Ritchie kindly fitting us in on a weekend prior to the arrival of a Chinese delegation keen to try his wines. The most impressive of the wines tasted had pure fruit flavours and refreshing, natural acidity. The least impressive strayed towards some left-field tropical fruit flavours and less structure. However, none of the wines tasted slotted into the cheap throw-away natural wine stereotype of faulty, funky barnyard reds and cloudy, orange, apple cider whites. Quite the opposite.

We left the winery with 4 bottles of wine (one of them a wine that Ritchie admitted did not turn out the way he would have liked, but was a wild wine to taste). The tasting notes below are for three of the wines, tasted in early November (Rose) and mid-November (the two Shiraz).  (As for the delay in posting the notes – blame my day job and downtime with my beautiful baby boy).

Harkham Aziza’s Shiraz 2012
An earthy, meaty nose with crushed grape stems, some dried florals, blueberry and dark cherry fruit. On the palate, a bit salty, with minimal tannin. Largely driven by juicy black cherry fruit and fresh acidity. The finish is earthy, meaty and savoury though clean, with a hint of residual salt.
After two days on the tasting bench/fridge, the nose opened up, with sweeter fruit coming out on the front palate, and a finish with additional dried herbs.
Given the difficult vintage conditions, and the minimalist natural wine making philosophy, this is a surprising result. Drink now.
Price: $22
Rating: 88pts

Shiraz Nouveau 2011
This wine hits home to me the razors-edge natural winemakers tread each vintage. If the winemaking is not at fault (and in this case it definitely isn’t), the fruit and vintage conditions can do their best to hijack a wine. Especially if the scientific – dare I say it, ‘industrial’ wine making work-arounds are not available. The wine had a banana-like nose with tropical undertones on the palate, arguably variable acidity, yet a core of ripe red cherry and raspberry fruit. Finished with an almost white wine textural mouthfeel. Ritchie noted that this was made from super ripe, small berries that were carbonically macerated in whole bunches in stainless steel tanks and bottled 3 months later. It was a tricky wine to make, and it shows in the glass.
Rating: 87pts

Harkham Rose 2012
Attractive light, pale strawberry colour. Nose – Sweet red fruits and a hint of spicy stonefruit (white nectarine). Juicy yet delicate fruit flavours, primarily strawberry, light and vibrant with lovely fresh, cleansing, integrated acidity. The finish is dry, with some mixed citrus peel lingering at the end. A very drinkable, refreshing wine, sweet on the nose, yet largely dry on the mid-back palate. The fresh, integrated acidity a standout. This wine passed the ‘Wife Test’, with the better half giving it two thumbs up.
Rating: 94pts

Saturday, September 6, 2014

2013 Tahbilk Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre (Nagambie Lakes)

Tahbilk wines tend to cellar well beyond their supposed station in life, so it will be interesting to see how this new range of rhone blend wines go in this regard.

There’s some nice oak input here, but its mainly berry and raspberry fruit in a medium to full bodied frame. It turns very savoury with notes of leather, spice, and a soy finish. Has a good sense of balance. Enjoyable drinking now but will likely be better integrated in another couple of years.

Rated: 3.5 Stars
RRP: $25
ABV: 14.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2020+

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

2007 Cirὀ ἉVita Rosso Classico Superiore

A tasting note that was lost in the mail - Wine tasted early July 2012. Posted for blogging posterity. Interested if people have tried this wine, or later vintages recently.

Purchased from one of the most impressive bars in a blossoming Sydney wine bar scene (121BC), this Calabrian wine is defined by its tannins: if you are not a fan of tannic wines, a trip to merlotville might be advisable. The Cir Vita Rosso Classico Superiore is made using the indigenous Calabrian Gaglioppo grape, and in the glass, the wine looks and smells a bit like a Pinot – light crimson with a sappy, cherry nose. On the palate it is light to medium bodied with dark and sour cherry fruit, some all spice and sappy, earthy flavours with nice savoury intensity at the finish. The tannins are prominent and lingering in a good way – you find yourself pondering the tannins long afterwards. The drying characteristic of the tannins demands and greatly compliments food – a good start would be some rustic Calabrian pasta dishes.

Rating: 90pts
RRP: $32
ABV: 14%
Supplier: 121BC Cantina

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2012 Star Lane Nebbiolo (Beechworth)

Australian Nebbiolo.

    Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
That couldn’t be done, and he did it

Edgar Albert Guest


I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read or heard that Nebbiolo isn’t really worth pursuing outside of Piedmont in Northern Italy. The theory goes that there exists such a unique synergy between grape and terroir there, that nowhere else will be able to produce wine worthy of this King of grapes.

Well I’ve tasted enough good Australian Nebbiolo over the past 5 years or so to state emphatically that this is not the case. SC Pannell, Luke Lambert, Coriole, and Pizzini are all examples of wineries that have produced Nebbiolos that would sit comfortably in a line-up of Langhe Nebbiolo, albeit that the flavour and texture profiles might be somewhat different from a wine from Piedmont. The only question to my mind is whether Australia will end up producing profound, long lasting Nebbiolo such as one gets with top Barolo and Barbaresco. This is as yet unanswered. I am, however, increasingly of the view that Australian Nebbiolo is like Australian Pinot Noir of twenty years ago or so. Another decade or two will likely see a handful of vineyards and wineries making great Nebbiolo.

To the wine at hand, the 2012 Star Lane Nebbiolo. Somewhat pale and translucent in colour as per the variety. The nose is initially somewhat closed but it opened up over the course of a couple of days to reveal cherry, tar, and a note of orange peel. There’s nice fruit on the palate, but all within a medium bodied Nebbiolo frame. That orange peel note, along with some appealing bittnerness puts me in the mind of a Negroni. No bad thing. Oak is there but unobtrusive. The overall balance of the wine is excellent and it finishes with proper, drying tannin and a lovely earthiness.  On day one I had it at 3.5 Stars, but my last glass on day 2 was impressive enough to give it a nudge. 4 Stars, and a wine that needs a few years in the cellar yet.

Rated: 4 Stars
RRP: $55
Closure: Diam
Drink: 2016-2022


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2010 Yelland and Papps Divine Shiraz

A typically seductive, ripe, full bodied wine in the Divine range by Yelland and Papps,  smelling and tasting of plush, juicy blackberry, black plum fruit, supported by good quality sweet cedary oak. With air, liquorice and mixed spice open up on the nose.

At 14% abv it has some alcohol heat, though fully in step with the powerful fruit across the palate. A real crowd pleasing wine from a great Barossa Valley vintage. Drink now or cellar 10+ years.

Rating: 95+
ABV: 14%
RRP: $75

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Scarborough 2011 Yellow Label Chardonnay

Scarborough does wonderful things with Chardonnay in the Hunter Valley and the Yellow Label is their out and proud ‘old school’ style of chardonnay. In all but the odd horror Hunter Valley vintages, I can rely on this wine.
Smells of lemon, traces of lemon rind, cashews and spicy, creamy oak
On the palate, juicy lemon, ripe grapefruit, an alluring creamy texture and clean acid. Some integrated oak flavours on the back palate. 

Clean, flavoursome and refreshing, but not overpowering or too woody. The body and flavour to make it a versatile wine to drink with across a range of white meat dishes (seafood to roast chicken thighs).

Old school but wearing a shiny new suit.

Ratings: 91pts
ABV: 13.5%
RRP: $23 (Cellar Door)

2010 Yelland and Papps Divine Grenache

From an impressive Barossa Valley vintage comes a powerful and flavoursome wine made from Grenache north of Greenock, planted in the 19th century. The Divine range are premium wines produced by Yelland and Papps. Made in a familiar and consistent style, they tend to be fully flavoured yet built to last.
Tasting Note:
Juicy, round red and black cherry, mixed black fruit merged neatly with Christmas cake spices. Primary fruit at the front and middle especially.  Finishes with elegant power, no overt confection.  Luscious, approachable and moreish, though kept together thanks to its impressive structure.

Makes a bold impression with a fruit intensity and  rich oak treatment that will please many.
I would probably drink this now, given the few years in the bottle and the luscious fruit on offer, though it would cruise through cellaring for 10 years.

RRP: $75
ABV: 14.5%
Score: 94+ pts

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

2006 Alluviale Merlot Cabernet Franc (Hawkes Bay, NZ)

One of my gradual learnings over the years is that most premium, age worthy wine doesn't actually get discernibly better with age. Sure, a wine may age in the sense that it drinks well at 10 years of age, but a wine that actually builds additional complexity and enjoyment when compared to its youth is indeed rare. Instead, for most aged wines edges have softened, flavours have become more savoury, and a glide path of gradual decay has begun. There’s plenty of enjoyment to be had in following a wine on such a path, it’s just not the epiphany that is often hoped for when initially laying a bottle down in the cellar.

The 2006 Alluviale Merlot Cab Franc fits this mould. Nothing startling has happened with a further 5 years under its belt since I first tried it, but is nevertheless represents very enjoyable cellared wine drinking.  Medium bodied and food friendly, the tannin and acidity remain present but have now fully integrated into the wine. It still has plenty of nice plummy fruit along with chocolate notes. Grassiness, tobacco, and some earthiness all combine to provide a savoury finish. A lovely wine.

Rated: 4 Stars
ABV: 13.9%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2014-2017


Sunday, June 15, 2014

2004 Fontanafredda Serralunga D'alba Barolo (Piedmont, Italy)

I consumed this as part of my birthday lunch along with a 2008 PHI Pinot Noir from the Yarra Valley. The Pinot won wine of the day (see original note and updated comments here), but the Fontanfredda was also impressive and provided me with the Nebbiolo hit I was after.
At 10 years of age those famous Serralunga tannins have softened somewhat and the acidity has integrated, but both remain prominent enough to deliver a wine with a great sense of texture. Classic flavours of liquorice, sour cherry, and tea leaf. There’s also an interesting and appealing orange peel note. Tends to earthiness through the back palate though perhaps doesn’t quite finish with the length to push it up there for higher points. Very enjoyable now, but will also continue to age well, turning increasingly savoury over the next 10 years.

Rated: 4 Stars
RRP: $80-90
Closure: Cork
Drink: 2014-2024


Saturday, May 24, 2014

RedtoBrown #Orangegate EXCLUSIVE: Port Adelaide Power to consider lobbying government to rename the beverage ‘wine’*

Adelaide Friday 23 May: Having succeeded in convincing the Australian government to change the name of the fortified wine Port (with Wine Australia renaming it ‘Tawny’ in 2006), AFL football club, Port Adelaide Power are pressing ahead with moves to change the name of the alcoholic beverage ‘wine’ to something else in order to avoid confusion with star player Ollie Wines.
The move by Port Adelaide comes at the same time the New South Wales wine growing region of Orange is attempting to regulate skin contact wine being referred-to as ‘orange’ to avoid similar confusion
among consumers and retailers. - Link: Here

Port Adelaide President David Koch hit the media circuit yesterday calling for wine to be renamed, and has even met with members of parliament to argue his case. “Ollie Wines is one of our best players, and market research is showing that the beverage wine is hurting his cut-through in the market – neutral fans we are trying to attract keep getting wine confused with Ollie Wines. Given his already massive profile, it seems an obvious move to either rename the drink or put strict caveats on the use of the term ‘wine’ when selling it at shops." 

The controversy over the Ollie Wines/Wine confusion has prompted Wine Australia to issue a clarification on the use of the term ‘wine’ when referring to wine. Henry Wilson, General Manager, Regulatory Services noted the following on the Wine Australia website:

The word “wine” can signify many things; an alcoholic beverage, a star Australian Rules Football Player, something an interest group or region may think is important to their bottom line and want protected/denied to other people using the term legitimately. But when used to describe the alcoholic beverage known as wine, it could be an offence under both the Wine Australia Corporation Act and the Sports Trademark Act to refer to it as wine without providing a clear indication the product is not in fact Ollie Wines, the AFL football player, or a product derived from that player.”

Wine commentators and wine producers have been busily digesting the new clarification on the use of the word ‘wine’, and were considering alternatives to avoid further confusion with the Port Adelaide Football Club. Shortlisted alternatives were “Tomayne, Apalleraya, and Jungle juice”.

Confusion: Is this wine or Ollie Wines? 
Wine makers and producers are on notice to consider changing their labels to fully differentiate between the various uses of the term ‘wine’, and Wine Australia has encouraged the Australian Wine industry to be proactive and suggest alternative words to describe their product in anticipation of the Port Adelaide proposals succeeding in Australian and the European Union parliaments.

Hands off Ollie! - PAFC President David Koch adamant
that 3000 years of wine making history will not dilute Ollie Wines' brand image

*Satire, views expressed are personal satirical opinions, etc.  PAFC have nothing to do with any wine related issues, other than encouraging Ollie Wines to help win the AFL Premiership in 2014 and beyond.

Friday, May 23, 2014

2012 Mount Langi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz (Grampians)

The Mount Langi Cliff Edge is generally a great value Grampians Shiraz, which won’ t set you back the big bucks of the flagship Mount Langi Shiraz. Indeed there have been some big 94-96 scores flying around for this vintage of the Cliff Edge. I’m a fraction more circumspect, but as a wine you can pick up for less than $25 it is undoubtedly great value.
This wine combines great drinkability with plenty of yum factor. It’s just over medium bodied with a lovely mouth perfume that gives the wine a levity and elegance. Underpinning this however, is perfectly ripe fruit. A touch of regional plum but tending more towards berries. Some meatiness, chocolate and pepper adding complexity. This is a wine that will provide very enjoyable Shiraz drinking over the next 5 years and beyond.
Rated: 4 Stars
RRP: $30
ABV: 14%
Drink: 2014-2020


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2010 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir (Waipara, New Zealand)

This is great Pinot. Not cheap, but worth every dollar.
I had most of the bottle over two nights, and while on night one it didn’t quite meet my lofty expectations, by night two it was singing. It’s relatively powerful with a very appealing viscosity. That being said its unmistakably Pinot and retains a sense of elegance and silkiness. Dark cherry, some meatiness, hints of undergrowth, and an appealing aniseed note. Exotic spices.  An interstate trip then meant that I didn’t come back to a final glass of the wine until night five. By this stage it was still drinking beautifully but had turned decidedly savoury, earthy and autumnal. Length to burn. Top wine.

Rated: 4.5 Stars
RRP: $60
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2025


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Yelland and Papps 2012 Vin De Soif

The Yelland and Papps Vin De Soif returns for 2012 after the surprisingly good debut in 2011 (given the vintage).
Having purchased a few bottles of the 2012 Vin De Soif late last year, I was curious to see how this early drinking wine had developed after 6 months extra in the bottle:
An upfront sweet black and red fruit nose with hints of spice, vanilla and a slight earthy meatiness.
Energizes the palate with a juicy, medium bodied combination of blackberry, dark cherry, A mix of crunchy citric acidity, earthy stalkyness and soft, barely-there tannins at the back palate. The finish was initially savoury, though opened up with more expressive sweet fruit over time. 

A smart, affordable blend of 65% Grenache, 27% Mataro, 5% Shiraz & 3% Carignan, the Vin De Soif is consciously a drink now, enjoy now, and think about it later style of wine, though offers much more to the casual and enthusiastic drinker than a similarly priced single varietal or conventional blend ‘done by the numbers’. Food matchings are numerous – this vintage Vin De Soif would go particularly well with thin crust Italian pizza, pasta with a red sauce, bbq meats or chargrilled eggplant Turkish pizza – as versatile as it is gluggable. Day two tasting confirmed the MO of this wine – drink early and enthusiastically.

Rating: 88 pts
ABV: 14%
RRP: $20

Sunday, April 6, 2014

2003 Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon (Hunter Valley)

This is not one of the truly great Vat 1’s, but it registers very high on the scale of drinkability and joy.

As a wine it is in its transition phase, with plenty of primary fruit still in the offing, but development on display as well. There’s a prominent and cleansing acidity that marks the wine out and will ensure long life, while a growing roundness of fruit and flavour balances this nicely. Lovely citrus, a hint of vanilla, with some toasty, honey notes in there too. It perhaps lacks the intensity and length of a great Vat 1, but it is so enjoyable to drink you don’t really care. Sydney rock oysters were a great match.

Rated: 4 Stars
ABV: 10.9%
Closure: Cork
Drink: 2014-2019+


Thursday, March 27, 2014

2012 Sorrenberg Chardonnay (Beechworth)

This is one of my favourite Chardonnays but given the quality of the 2012 vintage this perhaps didn’t quite meet my lofty expectations for this label.  Ironic in a way that I prefer the Chardonnay that Barry and Jan Morey produced from the much maligned 2011 vintage. That being said the 2012 remains a beautiful wine and will improve over the next 5 years.
It took a couple of days to come together and really open up, but once it did it presented a lovely nose with notes of peach to the fore. It follows on from this with beautiful palate weight and everything nicely proportioned.  High acids and spicy oak integrate with air. Peach and an appealing milkiness are underpinned by a tell-tale minerally, lime streak that I find in all Sorrenberg Chardonnay.  Good persistence of finish. Time should be kind.  Cork as ever the only real negative I can find with these wines.
Rated: 4 Stars +
RRP: $48
Drink: 2015-2020
Closure: Cork


Sunday, March 9, 2014

2012 Coriole Sangiovese (Mclaren Vale)

Coriole’s Sangiovese is one of those wines where the grape variety and region are both evident, and the synergy between the two is typically something that is lovely to drink. In fact the 2012 is rather beautiful, and perhaps the best vintage of this wine yet.

Lovely, ripe fruit  with berries tending towards sour cherry as it travels along the palate. Texturally it feels like a Sangiovese with prominent acidity that integrates well over a couple of days, and that drying tannin that is so appealing. Mind you there’s a juiciness here as well. Notes of aniseed, spices, and orange peel give it complexity. Yummy earthiness to finish. It needs another year or two but I could drink lots of this. Great value too.   

Rated: 4 stars
RRP: $25
ABV: 14.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2022


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Press Release Files - Volume 1

Editor's note: from time to time, RedtoBrown receives press releases from a wide and wacky range of wine people. Below is the first of a series of responses ......

Interview? Valentine’​s Day Beyond Wine: A Chocolate Guide by Wine Spectator

Hi RedtoBrown --
If you’re looking for that perfect Valentine’s Day chocolate fix to top off your wine glass—or champagne bottle—consider a chat with Wine Spectator Features Editor Owen Dugan. Both a wine and chocolate extraordinaire, Owen recently rounded up the best chocolate bars in the U.S. and beyond—his picks can be found in Wine Spectator’s February 2014 issue, available on newsstands now.
Are you interested in setting up an interview or seeing a PDF of the full feature? Owen can recommend V Day bars and boxes that will impress your sweetheart on this special day. From best value, flavor, snack, novelty and more – take a peek at some of Owen’s favorites:
·         Xocolatl de David’s 68% Bolivian Cacao Sour-Dough & Olive Oil Bar—$9/2.2oz I Portland, OR I
·         Mast Brothers’ Crown Maple Dark Chocolate Bar—$9.45/2.5oz I Brooklyn, NY I
·         Blanxart’s Chocolate Negro Con Almendras—$10.45/7oz I from Barcelona I
Owen is also available to discuss candy and wine pairings that will make for the most scrumptious dessert this Valentine’s Day. Please let me know if you would like a PDF of Owen’s Best Chocolate Bars article and/or a copy of Wine Spectator’s February issue; the issue also includes the editors’ picks for Wines to Discover in 2014.
I look forward to your interest.

Best regards,

Dear Jacob,

I would literally give my right arm, or sell secrets to the Chinese government to interview Owen. Aside from Nelson Mandela and Gandhi, Owen is a hero of mine.
To think I could be asking him about the best champagne match to go with 70% cocoa dark chocolate is almost too much for me to bear.

You have made my dreams come true. Thank you, thank you

Sunday, February 23, 2014

2009 Chateau La Croix Romane Lalande de Pomerol

This is a good shout if you want to try a Pomerol from the much lauded 2009 vintage, and yet don’t want to shell out the silly money that is typically required.

It’s rich and plush as one might expect from an 09 Pomerol. Plummy fruit, liquorice, and an overall pleasing warmth. That being said it delivers a refreshing acidity, an ironstone like minerality, and lovely spice. It pushes through to a savoury finish that is framed by robust tannins. Plenty of enjoyment now and should age well over the next decade and beyond.

Rated: 4 Stars
RRP: $60
Closure: Cork
Drink: 2014-2024+


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Montalto Estate Pinot Noir 2012

Montalto Estate is firing on several cylinders at the moment, the result of some serious investment in their estate winemaking operation and the increasing payoff of 4 years of hard work and strategic planning by winemaker Simon Black and his team.

This wine has class – a varietal nose of red fruits, mixed spice, forest floor and a hint of smoky sweet oak. Juicy dark and red cherry, red plums and mixed spice all integrate harmoniously on the front and mid-palate, with acid and tannins balanced nicely. The savoury, focussed finish is laced with a savoury sappyness and stalkyness. Pleasing length.

Impressed on day two and day three on the tasting bench, and though moreish and in the zone right now will also gain more complexity in the future. An impressive wine from an impressive pinot vintage in the Mornington.

Rating: 93 pts
RRP: $48
ABV: 13.6%

Saturday, February 1, 2014

2009 Tyrrell’s 4 Acres Shiraz (Hunter Valley)

This was an unexpected treat at a family lunch on Australia day.

The 4 Acres Shiraz is one of the jewels in the Tyrrell’s crown, and indeed for Australian wine more generally.  The 4 Acres vineyard was planted in 1879 by Edward Tyrrell. Like many other century old vineyards in Australia, it was spared the ravages of phylloxera, and since that time has produced a medium-bodied Shiraz very much in the classic “Hunter Burgundy” mode. Tyrrell’s are sensitive to this history and the style, and the viticulture and winemaking reflects this, in particular with the ageing of the wine in large format, old oak. 

We decanted the wine for a few hours before consumption, but it still didn’t reveal too much on the nose – red fruits and some earthiness. To drink however, there is more pleasure to be had. It’s a light-medium bodied Shiraz that is Pinotesque in its weight and mouthfeel. Indeed, forget for a minute the substance here, and it works as a lovely luncheon red. Ponder the wine for a moment however, and there’s a future in the cellar to be excited about. It’s very much acid driven with an insistent yet fine acidity underpinning its medium bodied frame. While light, the fruit has a pitch perfect ripeness to it that carry the flavours through a long finish. Red fruits, mainly cranberry, and a beautiful mouth perfume are given savoury purpose by a lovely earthiness.

The quality of the fruit, the acidity and the latent complexity all lend themselves to the suggestion that this will be something quite special in another 10 years and beyond. The history of Tyrrell’s reds, and Hunter Shiraz more generally give further weight to this proposition. I’ve got 3 bottles in the cellar, the first of which I’ll open in another 10 years or so, from which I’ll take my cue on the remaining two.   

Rated: 4 Stars ++
RRP: $50
ABV: 13.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2019-2030+


Sunday, January 19, 2014

2012 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay (Hemel en Aarde, South Africa)

Hamilton Russell have long been on my list of must try wines, and I was lucky enough to find a bottle of this a few weeks back.

Tim Hamilton Russell was one of the pioneers of fine wine in South Africa. He set up his vineyard in 1979, after a detailed search to find the ideal cool climate spot to grow chardonnay and pinot noir. From the winery itself -

“Hamilton Russell Vineyards, one of the most southerly wine Estates in Africa and one of the closest to the sea - is located in the beautiful, cool, maritime Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation, just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus.”

Since that time Hamilton Russell has built a reputation as one of South Africa’s finest estates. Tim Hamilton Russell passed away last year aged 79, and undoubtedly leaves behind an amazing legacy.

To the wine at hand. The is real Chardonnay. Juxtaposition and joy. To drink it delivers richness and complexity, and yet it remains at all times tight and linear. The palate weight is just so, with a generosity that retains a lightness of feel. Limes and stonefruit. Quality oak input that’s just a bit unresolved at present, and yes there’s an undoubted minerality that emerges through the mid to back palate. It needs a bit of time in the cellar to show it’s best and there’s a big emphasis on the plus sign with the score. Given both the reputation of this wine and factoring in all the silly import costs for overseas wines into Australia, this is something of a bargain at the $40-$50 it retails for. The only issue is they’ve stuck a cork in it, but it’s worth exploring regardless.


RRP: $40-$50 approx.
ABV: 13.0%
Closure: Cork
Drink: 2015-2020+

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