Friday, October 30, 2009

2003 Andrea Oberto Barbera D'Alba Giada

My wife and I spent a few days in the Barolo area in Piedmont, Italy earlier this year. We both fell in love with the place and the wine of this region. I will be writing something on this trip soon. Ever since coming back I've had a thirst for not only Barolos and Barberescos, but also the "lesser" wines varieties of this wine region such as Barbera and Dolcetto.

The 2003 Andrea Oberto Barbera D'Alba Giada is an enjoyable and interesting wine. I was really looking foward to drinking this wine, and the light, yet bright purple colour of the wine looked promising.

The first sniff of the wine however was a shock. Alcohol. The most noticeable thing on the nose was almost a searing heat on the nose from the alcohol. 2003 was a hot vintage in Piedmont and I thought this might have been a wine that was going to be too alcoholic. I'd seen that the wine was 14.5% alcohol, not exactly low, but certainly not something that would normally disturb me. However the nose would have seemed to indicate an alcohol level a lot higher than 14.5%.

I left the wine for a while to breathe a bit, and when I came back the heat on the nose had died down a bit and I could actually smell something else! Cherry, plum, spice, and a bit of vanilla oak. I guess somewhat typical of a barbera, though also reminded me a bit of a good merlot nose.

On the palette, the initial main flavour was sour cherry, but then as the wine opened up over time, I noticed more the savoury, earthy flavour on the finish. Its good through the mid-palette but then is a tad short on the finish. Interestingly, there is a tiny bit of heat on the palette, but its not especially noticeable, and is certainly less than you would have expected based on the nose.

If ever there was a case for giving wine a chance to breathe this was it. It started off with a very alcoholic nose that made me question whether I'd enjoy it at all. After a couple of hours it evolved into a wine of real personality, with a nice balance between the fruity and the savoury. Very enjoyable!


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mille Vini and a glass of Head Blonde

Following on from Brown's Barossa comments, one of the few regrets from an otherwise amazing trip was the fact we had to cancel a tasting we had organised with Alex Head of Head Wines (as wine obsessives we were guilty of trying to squeeze too many wineries into the one trip). Fortunately, I was able to get a Head fix last night at Mille Vini.

For those in Sydney, or those visiting Sydney, I'd highly recommend popping in to Mille Vini, a wine bar on Crown St in Surry Hills. Its an intimate place with a great atmosphere, very affordable food, and most importantly a very diverse and interesting wine list.

As the name of the place suggests, there are plenty of interesting Italian wines on the list, as well as plenty of other international wines. The Australian wines on the list are a really interesting group as well. When I saw the 2008 Head Blonde Shiraz Viognier on the list my decision was already made.

I'm generally unconvinced by shiraz viognier, but this is definitely one of the better examples I have had. The dried apricot I often get with shiraz viognier is there, but is not over the top. The other things I got on the nose were berry fruits. Not too much in the way of oak. On the palette the thing that really stood out for me was the tight structure and long length. Good tannins and a few layers of complexity that I think will emerge with a bit more bottle age. There is a part of me that wishes it was just a 100% shiraz, but its neverthless an excellent wine.


Barossa 2009 Vintage Shaping up to be a Cracker

Red and I returned from the Barossa Valley last week, having visited several small wineries. The most interesting point that we took from the trip was how good the 2009 vintage is shaping. Though I tend to take positive talk of the next vintage with a grain of salt, the universal, unprompted consensus was that 2009 will be a cracker made me sit up and take notice. From our discussions with wine makers, 2009 will be great for a number of reasons:

Firstly, the heatwave that struck Adelaide and SA in Janurary was before veraison. With the multiple microclimates in the Barossa, vineyards carefully seected in prime areas were completely unaffected. Secondly, a few journalists had gone to the Mclarenvale (not established wine journos) and went door knocking to find a hard-luck story. Noting that the Mclarenvale did it tougher than the Barossa, one hard luck story was found, and the 2009 vintage was given a bad name as a result. Thirdly, the 2-3 months following the heatwave had moderate weather, perfect for even ripening of fruit. Add this to the fact the vintage was looking good pre-heatwave and the Barossa has reason to be excited. Whether the potential greatness of 2009 is firmly in the minds of wine writers and drinkers is debatable.

The barrel tastings we did last week confirmed all of the above. I do not think I have seen such a lovely glowing purple / garnet colour to the wines in glass for a long time - especially the wines from Sons of Eden. Aside from the brilliant, glowing colour, the fruit was not too sweet, no traces of dead fruit, and lots of juiciness married with taut acidity.When blended, and with more time in oak to mature, these wines appear to me to be able to challenge, or be on a par with the great 2004, 2002 and 1998 vintages in the Barossa. Time will tell.

One thing is for sure - the tastings of many 2007 and 2008 wines (two very difficult vintages for the Barossa and for most of the Southeast of Australia) revealed that even in suboptimal vintages, the right wine maker can fashion elegant, long living and lively wines. Imagine what they will do with the 2009 fruit.

Many thanks to Dan Standish, Susan and Michael Papps, Sabine Deisen, Simon Cowham, the Rohrlach family, Greg Hobbs, Kalleske and Kym Teusner.
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