Tuesday, July 28, 2015

2011 Riversdale Estate Crater Chardonnay (Coal River, Tasmania)

The birth of a second child a couple of months ago has meant that my reviews have been non-existent of late. A state of semi organised chaos has existed in the Red household since no. 2 came along, though as we start to find a routine I'll see if I can't be a tad more productive.

I'm always interested to try Chardonnay from Tasmania. It's yet to produce the amount of world class chardonnay that a number of mainland regions have, though there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this will change over time.

Upon opening the thing that stood out was the high, prominent acid. There was some good grapefruit flavour to match but that acid put me in the mind of a young, bracing Eden Valley Riesling or some such. I can see why the winery has held back the release of this wine more than your average chardonnay. On day two, however, the acid had softened considerably and the quality of the wine came to the fore. Some richer stonefruit and creamy notes are balanced by flintiness and a touch of bitter pith. Excellent line and length of flavour. A high quality chardonnay and one that will still benefit from some time in the cellar. 4 stars.

Rated: 4 Stars
RRP: $35
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2016-2021
Website: www.riverdaleestate.com.au


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2013 Bremerton Malbec

The 2013 Bremerton Malbec is of several single varietal wines sold mainly at their cellar door with a limited retail release.
On the nose and palate, use of Hungarian oak infuses some aniseed spice into a nice mix of blackberry, mulberry and black plum. There is a flavour burst from front to mid palate, dropping off a little, though finishing with ripe and pleasantly tart tannin, and a lingering hint of 5-spice and mixed black fruit.
A spicy, reasonably restrained interpretation of Australian Malbec. Intriguing wine. 

Price: $24
ABV: 14.5%
Rating: 92
Website: www.bremerton.com.au

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bordeaux vs Coonawarra: 1994 Chateau Leoville Poyferre vs 1994 Petaluma Coonawarra Cabernet

Two 21 year old Cabernet blends, courtesy of my aunty’s cellar.

The first, the Leoville Poyferre, is a Second Growth from the Saint-Julien commune in Bordeaux. Having been established in 1840, the estate has been through some peaks and troughs as might be expected, however, the past few decades have seen a resurgence in its reputation and the quality of wine produced. The second wine, the Petaluma Coonawarra has been one of Australia’s more highly regarded Cabernet blends over a few decades now. Production for this wine began in 1979.
When the Red and Brown clans got together recently, we decided to take these two wines of pedigree head to head. They are obviously worthy of enjoyment and contemplation without competition or reference to any other wine, but I still find comparative tastings like this highly enjoyable and revealing.
Both wines had excellent quality, long corks that happily had done their jobs, with both wines smelling great in the decanter from the get go. We then proceeded to drink both bottles over the course of a few hours, with some slow cooked lamb the accompaniment.
1994 Petaluma Coonawarra -  At 21 years of age this has retained an impressive level of primary fruit that is present from the tip of the tongue through to the long finish. Blackcurrant mainly. Adding savoury complexity are notes of red earth and black olive. There’s a bit of regional mint/eucalypt but it’s in no way dominant and plays its part in a complex whole. What’s really impressive moreover, are the prominent tannins that really help shape and finish off the wine. There was a little bit left in the bottle on day 2 and it continued to drink impressively well. It’s in a real sweet spot now where it offers a great aged Cabernet drinking experience, but still has the stuffing to drink well over the next 5-10 years. 94 points
1994 Chateau Leoville Poyferre – What enthrals me with this wine is the tightrope it walks between power and elegance. The entry onto the palate is supple and subtle before building to great mid palate intensity, which then tapers into a focused and savoury finish. It's the kind of structure that marks it out as a great wine. Classic cassis and cigar box flavours. Gravel is also a signature, both in terms of the bouquet as well gravelly minerality through the long finish. Fantastic to drink and wonderful to see it weigh in at only 12.5% alcohol. It's a wine that ultimately could only be Bordeaux and would never be confused as anything else.  As with the Petaluma, it gives great enjoyment now but will age over the next decade without a second thought. 96 points
In the end the Bordeaux was the preferred wine on the night, showing a class that is rare in the world of wine. That being said the Petaluma is a great wine in its own right and is testament to the ageworthiness and quality of the marque and Coonawarra Cabernet more generally.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2012 Krondorf growers Barossa Shiraz

Krondorf Growers Barossa Shiraz 2012
This wine from the Cellermasters stable has a nose with pretty hefty vanilla oak, intermixed with ripe, dark/black fruits. 
Fruity and mouth filling, with mulberry blackberry and some stewed black plum supported by soft tannins, slight aniseed notes and mixed spice. Finishes sweet, and the alcohol heat is in balance with the hefty fruit. For sub-$20 a nice smooth, fruity and powerful wine that is not subtle, but with elements in balance. On day two of tasting, this wine had developed nicely and should be drinking well for several years.

ABV: 14.5%
RRP: 17-18
Rating: 88pts

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

2007 Domaine Epis Pinot Noir (Macedon)

I've long wanted to taste an Domaine Epis Pinot Noir, but for some reason only just got around to it the other day. The Pinot Noir that Alec Epis and his former winemaker Stuart Anderson have made over the years have garnered plenty of praise. Furthermore, I'm a fan of Pinot Noir from the Macedon Ranges with Bindi and Curly Flat two standouts. When I saw a few bottles of the 2007 Epis Pinot at auction at a reasonable price I decided it was time to scratch this longstanding itch.

Buying at auction, however, always adds an element of Russian Roulette to the pursuit of drinking aged wine, but the risk was very much worth it in this wine, with the diam cork having aged the wine without issue. It opened with a classic, varietal nose of smoky undergrowth and cherries. These flavours carried through to a silky and supple palate, with additional spice and a touch of pleasurable warmth through the finish. It was the perfect foil for some roast pork over a long lunch, though I'd suggest the wine is at its aged peak at the moment. We had it open and decanted for 2-3 hours and it seemed to fade a bit just with the last half a glass. A great introduction to Domaine Epis Pinot Noir.

Rated: 4 Stars
ABV: 13.2%
Closure: Diam
Drink: 2015-2016
Website: www.domaineepis.com.au


Friday, April 3, 2015

2013 Tahbilk Rousanne Marsanne Viognier

I loved the previous Tahbilk labels and branding - very old school; channelling both 1970s and 1870s (fitting, given the age of some vines at their winery, which are even older).
This new wine sits in between their great value, entry level  Shiraz, Cabernet and Marsanne and their flagship wines, and is a new blend from the winery. A solid addition to the range.

A nose and palate of fresh pear, apricot and green and red apple. Rounded fruit with orange peel and low key acidity. Nice minerality throughout, with, some toasty oak and pleasant phenolics on the savoury finish.

On days 2 and 3 it lost a bit of weight in terms of textural mouthfeel, and freshened/lightened up.

RRP: $25-$28
ABV: 12.8%
Rating:  89 pts

Thursday, March 19, 2015

2013 Tyrrell's Single Vineyard Reds (Hunter Valley)

I had these wines late last year, then lost my tasting notes, only to find them again the other day!
I sometimes wonder if the past 5-10 years or so will be remembered as a mini-golden era for wine lovers in Australia. It has been a period in which an increasing number of wineries across the country have begun to produce compelling wines that are unique expressions of site or vineyard. This has all happened at a time when Australian wines were on the nose as far as many international critics were concerned, the Australian dollar was incredibly strong (further weakening export demand), and there was a general glut of grapes. The result has been a wonderful array of exceptional wine at more than reasonable prices. As with all cycles, things eventually turn, and in the past two to three years we have seen a gradual positive changing of opinion amongst international critics, and there has been some easing in the oversupply of grapes (while still remaining problematic). Importantly, in the past 12 months we have also seen the Australian dollar drop substantially, particularly against the US Dollar. All of which would point to a likely increasing demand for Australian wine. Some quite remarkable price rises by individual wineries on their premium wines in the past year or two would seem to be at least in part an early indication of this.

Which leads me to these Tyrrell’s single vineyard reds. Here you are indeed getting compelling wines that are unique expressions of their respective sites. Furthermore, they are scarce (not much made in terms of production), and they age a treat. Finally they have an amazing history behind them, being made by a winery established in 1838 and still in family hands, and sourced from 100 year + old vineyards. While $50 is never a small amount to pay for a bottle of wine, I would argue that with all these things considered, these wines are great value at that price. I feel fortunate then to be a part of the Private Bin club at Tyrrell’s through which you can buy these wines, and have been stocking up in the past few years.
I believe something in this favourable equation for these special wines will eventually break. It might be large price rises, a closing of the Private Bin club to new entrants, or something else. Either way, I struggle to see how these wines will remain so accessible, given both growing local awareness and interest, and the turning, even just marginally, in international demand. If these wines are your type of thing and you’re not a member you might want to get in before it’s too late.

To the wines at hand -

2013 Tyrrell’s Johnno’s ShirazJohnno’s block was planted in 1908 and sits is on alluvial sandy loam soils.
This is somewhat unyielding at present, only gradually revealing its true appeal and potential over a few days. It’s light to medium bodied and very much a “Hunter Burgundy” in style. Lovely cherry fruit meets regional earthiness, with just a hint of oak at play. Acid driven. One thing that does stand out at this stage of its life is its great length of finish. This should largely be left alone for its first 10 years, and then savoured after that. Rated: 93++  Drink: 2020-2030+

2013 Tyrrell’s Old Patch Shiraz The ‘Old Patch’ vineyard was planted in 1867, making it nearly 150 years old, and sits on red clay loams. .
While remaining medium-bodied, there’s a bit more of everything with the Old Patch as compared to Johnno’s. A bit more joy and drinkability early in its life. That being said this is just as much a monty for the cellar as the Johnno’s. A slightly darker, richer fruit profile here, while remaining in the cherry spectrum. Earthiness and a beautiful cinnamon note. The tannins are subtle yet firm, and help shape the wine through its long finish. Rated: 93++  Drink: 2018-2030+


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

2013 Montalto Estate and Pennon Hill Pinot Noir


More quality Pinot Noir from Simon Black and the team from Montalto. 2013 was a superb vintage for them, as displayed by the wines below.
2013 Montalto Estate Pinot Noir
Strawberry, vanilla musk nose, Luscious, silky ripe strawberry, red and black cherry fruit and mixed spice, finishes with an intense, long flavour flurry backed by clean natural acidity. Powerful and flavoursome yet with a lovely balance. Vibrant fruit, flavour, balance and length make this a very typically moreish wine.

RRP: $48
ABV: 13.6%
Rating: 93pts + (crowd pleaser)

2013 Montalto Pennon Hill Pinot Noir
Fresh, soft, vibrant and savoury red-black cherry fruit, hints of raspberry, vanilla and dried mixed herbs. Juicy red fruit at the front, framed strongly in the middle by stalky, savoury notes. Earthy and spicy, though fruit-forward, refreshing and flavoursome. Very approachable. A wine getting better each vintage.

RRP: $30
ABV: 13.7%
Rating: 93pts

Website: http://montalto.com.au/

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Murdoch Hill - 2013 The Landau Syrah (Adelaide Hills)

Murdoch Hill is a relatively new name to me, but it’s a winery with a bit of history, a good family story, and importantly some exciting wines.

I visited the winery in November last year, where I was hosted by Charlie Downer, the family patriarch, and his son Andrew who looks after the marketing for the winery. The farm has been run by the Downer family since the 1930s, with cattle one of the mainstays till the present day. Vines were planted in 1998, and for a number of years the wine was made offsite.

The site itself is a gently sloping one, with soil types varying between blocks. It is predominantly sandy loam of red clays, with varying levels of quartz, ironstone and schist metamorphic rock. The Red varieties are typically planted on the hardy shallow soils, and the Chardonnay and Sauvignon on the more fertile richer soils

2012 marked a significant turning point for Murdoch Hill with the return home of winemaker Michael Downer (Andrew’s brother). Michael had worked at a number of wineries both in Australia and overseas, including Shaw & Smith in the Adelaide Hills, Vietti in Piedmont, and Bests in the Grampians. He evidently learnt a thing or two during that time, for the range of wines that he has produced from the 2013 and 2014 vintages are very impressive.

Highlights include the 2013 Cronberry Shiraz, a cracking entry level wine, that finds that great balance between ripe fruit and elegance. The 2014 The Surrey Pinot Meunier is a unique, delicious, and highly drinkable wine.

Perhaps my favourite wine, however, is the 2013 Landau Syrah - the fruit for this wine comes off a part of the vineyard heavy with Ironstone. The grapes are hand tended and picked, before undergoing ferment with 50% whole bunch and then being aged in old french oak. It opens with a seductive nose, with the whole bunch seemingly having contributed to a berry perfume tinged with pepper and meatiness. To drink it is loose knit and medium bodied but displays perfectly ripe fruit. It’s underpinned by an unforced and integrated acidity and finishes with impressive length. So drinkable, but will be better again in a few years time.

Rated: 4 Stars +
RRP: $50
ABV: 13%
Closure: Diam
Drink: 2015-2020+
Website: www.murdochhill.com.au


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2013 Lark Hill Sangiovese

I always associate Lark Hill with top quality Gruner Veltliner and my personal favourite of theirs, Viognier (amongst others). However, this Sangiovese is a pleasant surprise. A proudly biodynamic winery, Chris Carpenter and family at Lark Hill manage to deliver consistently high quality wines across their diverse range.

The 2013 Sangiovese has an initial herbal, tobacco nose that blows off with air, with a palate of juicy black fruit, sweet at the front, transitioning to savoury on the finish. Loose knit structurally, light-medium bodied and texturally slippery. Minimal tannin. Finishes savoury and refreshing.  
A light-medium bodied wine screaming out for early drinking alongside range of summery dishes (BBQ meats, Pizza, tapas, etc).

RRP: $30
ABV: 13.0%
Rating: 88 pts

Friday, January 30, 2015

2013 Montalto Estate SingleVineyard releases

Simon Black and the team at Montalto Estate are in the middle of an ambitious expansion process. In the last few years, Simon and the Montalto crew have released a series of single site wines to reflect the different types of terroir in their Mornington Peninsula vineyards. Following a tour of the winery and an intimate barrel tasting of earlier vintages back in 2013, it was clear that the team at Montalto were on the right track, and after a few days on the tasting bench, their new release 2013 single vineyard wines confirm this assessment.

2013 Montalto Estate Tuerong Block Pinot Noir
Some fresh red and black fruits on the nose, mixed with fruit cake spice and vanilla.

Initially shows juicy, primary red/black cherry and a bit of strawberry fruit, opening up with darker blackberry and sour cherry with some more air.

Over the course of 3 days on the tasting bench, the Tuerong became more brooding and complex, developing earthier and stalky flavours in the mid palate, and increased savouriness on the finish.

Should develop along these lines in the next 2-3 years, but is drinking well now

RRP: $65
Rating: 93pts+ nice journey ahead

2013 Montalto Estate Merricks Block Pinot Noir
Juicy fresh red fruit, varietal; strawberry and red cherry, backed by vanilla. Fresh black cherry and plum on the palate, brooding yet light on its feet. A flavoursome Pinot Noir that has nice intensity and power, yet is well structured, with nicely balanced acidity.

ABV: 13.7% 
RRP: $65
Rating: 92pts 

2013 Montalto Estate Main Ridge Pinot Noir
Fresh and flavoursome dark cherry and blue plum, supported by a decent amount of vanilla oak on the nose. A bit of stalkyness and liqueur cherry on the mid palate. Overall, on opening a ripe, fresh and juicy Pinot, enriched by some seductive oak.

ABV: 13.7%
RRP: $65
Rating: 91pts (did not taste on subsequent days)

2013 Montalto Estate The Eleven Chardonnay
On opening (double decanted) the wine was quite lean and clean in texture, yet with a powerful smoky, toasty oak, cashew and citrus nose.

On day two the wine was in a great groove – elegantly integrated oak, cashew, grapefruit, white and yellow nectarine, enlivened by unobtrusive acidity.
The Eleven is not going to blow you away with overplayed flavour (in a good way), nor is it a chardonnay in need of a figurative big square meal. Happy medium and a win-win. Given how this evolved on opening, give it a good decant to draw the best out of it, or put it down for a few years as it is an elegant yet sumptuous chardonnay.

ABV: 12.9% 
RRP: $55
Rating: 93+ (91 on opening, though improved markedly on the tasting bench over the next few days)

Overall, a premium range of wines from a winemaker and high quality winery hitting their straps.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

2009 Rosby Cabernet Sauvignon (Mudgee)

There is great value to be had here.

Gerald Norton-Knight tends a small but quite unique vineyard in Mudgee. I have written about it previously in more detail here. The wines are as such subject to the vagaries of the vintage, and the lesser vintages tend to produce enjoyable quaffers. The good vintages, however, result in lovely medium bodied Cabernet that is fantastic value.

2009 was a pretty good Mudgee vintage and the wine speaks to this. It delivers lovely ripe, plummy fruit with some liquorice notes, all, however, within a medium bodied frame. Where the interest comes in through is in the earthy rusticity it displays, something on show with many a Mudgee red. I had it at 3.5 Stars on day 1, but as it continued to integrate and lengthen on the finish over a few days I nudged it up to 4 stars. Superb value at $13.30 a bottle in a case and still available from the cellar door.

Rated: 4 Stars
RRP: $160 per case from cellar door
ABV: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2015-2019+
Website: www.rosby.com.au

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