Friday, January 29, 2010

2008 Prunotto Dolcetto D’alba (Piedmont, Italy - $25)

I’ve had this wine twice now and it’s been a great exercise in how external factors can affect your taste and enjoyment of a wine. The first time I tried it, the wine was drunk out of not particularly good wine glasses and at room temperature. While it was perfectly serviceable it didn’t really grab me at the time.

You will often read that red wine should be drunk at room temperature, though this is often said more from a European point of view, and really means that red wine should be served between 16-18 degrees. As room temperature in January in Australia is regularly at 25 degrees, even at dinner time, you are not really doing red wine a lot of favours if you simply serve it at room temperature.
Tonight, on a pretty warm evening, I put the wine in the fridge for 20 minutes just to cool it down a bit from room temperature, and then drunk it out of one of my lovely Riedel glasses. These two factors seemed to make a significant difference in turning it from a so-so wine into an enjoyable wine.
The wine has a deep purple-violet colour, as is typical with dolcetto. A nice nose of dark fruits, liquorice, and a bit of vanilla oak. To drink, dolcetto is normally juicy, plump and round before ending with a dry finish, and this wine fits the bill in this regard. Its medium bodied, continues with the same dark fruit flavours, has a hint of spice, and has a dry finish of reasonable length. Enjoyable, easy drinking and complemented the pizza perfectly.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2008 Moorilla Muse Pinot Noir

(A word of warning - this wine displays a somewhat erotic image on the label, so it mightn't be the best wine to take on a date . . . . or maybe it is depending on your style!)

Tasmania is the one state in Australia that to my mind doesn’t properly identify/promote its distinct wine regions. Tasmanian wines are still often labelled just “Tasmania” as opposed to any specific region. I think to some extent this has prevented me exploring Tasmanian wine as much as I might have. The more I’ve got into wine, the more I’ve found myself interested in the characteristics of each wine region, the sub-regions within each region, and even particular single sites and vineyards. And plenty people who are not as into their wine can often still tell you that they like their Barossa Shiraz or their Yarra Valley Pinot Noir. I would love to see Tasmanian wine really start identifying and promoting wines as being from Tamar, Coal River, the Huon etc.

2008 Moorilla Muse Pinot Noir - $45 – Moorilla are north of Hobart on the Derwent and this wine definitely encourages me to drink more Tasmanian Pinot (despite my grumblings). It’s certainly varietal with a gentle nose of cherries, strawberries, and spice. On the palate the same flavours carry through in a mouth filling way along with a hint of chocolate. On the back palate it has a savoury, sour/sour cherry finish. It’s a tad short in terms of the length but it’s very enjoyable drinking and went really well with an old school dish of Tuna Mornay for dinner (yum!). Reckon the wine will be better again in a year’s time and there’s enough there to suggest that it’s also worth cellaring for a few years to allow it develop. Good stuff.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Palliser Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006

Note: Apologies - Red to Brown has accidently bumped this post to the top of the pile. Now that it is here, I will note that you can find this wine at some of the bigger shops for closer to $30 than $50. Ready to drink right now and a step up on some of the $25-$35 New Zealand Pinots in the lower price point. Brown.

I could get used to this wine. Pinot Noir is ascendant in Sydney, and Australia generally. The differences in demographics of the people attending (particularly average age) at Pinot-only tastings when compared to general or Shiraz/Cabernet tastings are stark. In short, a large percentage of the Sydney pretty young things dig Pinot. Though Red and I do not fit into the pretty young thing category (at all), we are both gaining an increasing appreciation of Pinot as it becomes more common and more affordable/value for money (look out for the next ‘Face Off’ which will involve a double blind tasting of several examples of this variety from Australia and New Zealand).

The Palliser has a nice deep crimson colour, even after a few years in the bottle. The nose is sweet with a slight vanilla scent. In the mouth the wine is rich and full flavoured, the fruit is more red cherry and plum than strawberry (with some mushroom on the finish). There are moderate tannins, French oak that supports, but does not overly dominate the flavour profile and nice length to the wine. Palliser have managed to balance this wine very nicely to avoid the fruit overtaking the show, yet have avoided any grassy, sour or bitter flavours in the process. I could easily sit down with a glass of this on its own, or match it with a range of foods (for some reason this wine makes me want to tuck into a hot bowl of the wild game ragu I once had in Cortona, Italy– not that I need a glass of wine to desire such a dish!).

The winemaker recommended drinking the Palliser on release or in 1-3 years. This appears to be a common suggestion with their Pinot. Thankfully, the wine (approaching 4 years on from bottling) is still in fine form, and the fruit flavour and tannin levels suggest that it is still drinking well now or for a few more years at least.
I am looking forward to comparing Martinborough Pinot with some of the best Australia has to offer (Mornington, Yarra, Tassie). With my parochial tendencies numbed by a blind tasting, I fear I may succumb to the charm of a wine such as this.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Red’s Xmas Lunch – NV Veuve Clicquot, 1996 Knappstein Enterprise Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 Charles Melton Voice of Angels

If you think you’ve seen this post before well you have. Somehow it entered the Bermuda Triangle of blog pages and disappeared without a trace . . . so here it is again

Christmas lunch in my family is the traditional turkey meal. We have normally had very good turkey over the years (compliments of either my dad or grandmother), but this year’s was exceptionally good and possibly the best Christmas turkey I can remember having (thanks dad!). Once again the wines were the equal of the food.

NV Veuve Clicquot – Between the presents, lunch preparations, conversation, and laughter, I can’t say I really concentrated while drinking this but I certainly enjoyed it. It was a great champagne to kick off the festivities. It had some toasty, yeasty aromas on the nose, while on the palate it was creamy and sweet. While it finished nice and dry it was certainly sweeter than the Prosecco we had had the night before - . Somehow that slightly sweeter style of champagne seems more appropriate for a festive Christmas day. In some ways it wasn’t an especially remarkable or memorable champagne but I really enjoyed it nonetheless

1996 Knappstein Enterprise Cabernet Sauvignon – This was just a beautiful, aged cab sav. The colour, while still reasonably dark, had developed some of that red brick look. On the nose it was classic aged cabernet, and could not be mistaken for anything else. It had a lovely soft, yet insistent bouquet of blackcurrant and leaf. On the palate it was smooth and concentrated, of good length, with blackcurrant flavours dominating. It was such an enjoyable wine to drink and I reckon we consumed it at its peak. A few more years and it might start to fade . . .
2005 Charles Melton Voice of Angels – While being a family of pagans it was noted that the name of this wine seemed apt for Christmas day. This wine has enough dark fruit and power to suggest the Barossa, but has the structure, elegance and pepper to indicate it’s from the Eden Valley. It’s aromatic and has flavours of plum, chocolate, fruitcake, and pepper. It has a tight structure, good tannins, and plenty of years in front of it yet. A beautiful wine with plenty of yum factor!

2004 De Bortoli Noble One – This was not the best Noble One I have had but it certainly did the job in complimenting the plum pudding with brandy sauce. Orange and honey were the main flavours, and it was sweet and tasty. If I was being critical I would say it was just a touch too sweet for my tastes, but at 4pm on Christmas afternoon after copious amounts of food and wine who’s complaining . . . time for a snooze . . .


Monday, January 18, 2010

Yelland and Papps 2007 Old Vine Grenache and Teusner 2007 Joshua Grenache Mourvedre Shiraz

In recent years, both Yelland and Papps and Teusner have made impressive and elegant wines based largely on Grenache. This has been irrespective of the quality or heat of the vintage. In an ideal world the style of these Grenache-focused wines would be replicated elsewhere.

During recent tastings at both wineries, what struck me about Kym Teusner and Michael and Susan Papps was their love of Grenache and Mourvedre and this love of the less popular red varieties in the Barossa comes out in the wines they make. Both wineries are not afraid to promote Grenache and let it compete on its own, without being subdued by masses of lower quality Shiraz or coated in super-sweet lashings of new American oak.
Both the Old Vine Grenache and the Joshua are juicy and fruity (primarily raspberries and the red spectrum) with subtle spice and hints of coconut ice. Both wines have enough tannin and length to add substance and avoid flabbiness. Furthermore, both could be served slightly chilled and would go with many food matchings.

Unlike many Australian Grenache, GSM or GMS blends, there is minimal sugary/confiture notes in both wines (eg: the cloying red cordial effect) and the alcohol levels, or impact on the palate, are well controlled (in what was a heat affected vintage).
It comforts me to see that the Joshua (and Teusner GMS blends generally) buck the trend of using close to the same amount of Shiraz as Grenache. I have always felt this is a cynical commercial tactic used to mask poor quality Shiraz and porty Grenache in the one blend (eg: not in the spirit of the Rhone blend).
Such care and enthusiasm for the less appreciated red grapes of the Barossa is encouraging. I would love to see more dry, spicy, age-worthy Grenache being made in the Barossa Valley, and see the grape itself shed its somewhat daggy reputation nationwide. It is a grape that is underappreciated in Australia (virtually unheard of as a single varietal in NSW wine shops), yet has loads of potential in the hands of skilled winemakers like Michael and Susan Papps and Kym Teusner.

Imported Whites: 2008 Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner, 2008 A. Mano Fiano Greco, 2008 Dr Loosen Riesling

I’ve spent the past week lying on a beach in true Aussie summer holiday fashion, while also consuming plenty of summer quaffers. Three of these quaffers were imported white wines

2008 Domain Wachau Gruner VeltlinerAustria - $22 – I haven’t had many Gruner Veltliners, which is an Austrian variety that has plenty of similarities with Riesling. On the basis of this wine I’ll be looking to stock up on this variety. The wine had a lovely aromatic nose of apple and floral notes that had me confident the palate would be equally good . . . and it was. A juicy palate, with some nice fruit sweetness on the front palate, before finishing long and dry. Flavours of lemon, grapefruit, and pepper along with a nice sense of acidity and minerality. I’d assume it will age well over at least the next 5 years. Lovely drinking.

2008 A Mano Fiano GrecoItaly - $20 – Once again I haven’t had many Fianos, and don’t think I’ve ever had a Greco. Both are Italian grapes and this wine is from Puglia. A blend of 50% Fiano and 50% Greco. To enjoy this wine you’d have to enjoy a bit of sweetness in your wines. It’s in no way too sweet or cloying, but the overall impression is of fruit sweetness. It has a reasonably aromatic, intense nose of tropical fruit with hints of lychee and pears. On the palate it continues with the sweet, tropical fruit favours. The finish is of reasonable length and has a very interesting and enjoyable sweet and sour finish. If you are looking for a sweet summer quaffer that is a bit different then this is worth checking out.

2008 Dr Loosen RieslingGermany - $23 – Always on the look out for good Riesling, and I’d had the 2008 Dr Loosen Blue Slate Riesling a while back and really enjoyed it. The Blue Slate was a dry style, whereas this wine, their other entry level Riesling, is a sweeter wine. Once again It’s not cloying or too sweet, but compared to the average Aussie Riesling it is definitely on the sweet side. It has a nice fruity nose, and is tasty on the palate with flavours of apple and lemon. If you like your Riesling a bit sweet then this might be for you, but personally for the same money I would be buying Dr Loosen’s Blue Slate Riesling or one of the many fantastic Aussie Rieslings you can get for $15-$20.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Red to Brown Face-Off – New Year’s Eve – 2007 Voyager Chardonnay, 2007 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon, 2008 Collector Marked Tree Shiraz

Our New Years Eve planning was a bit of a schmozzle (a very long story), but the fall back option saw Brown, myself and our better halves at my place for the evening. As it ended up being a night of yummy food, great wine, and plenty of laughs it all turned out well. To the wines . . .

2007 Voyager Chardonnay – $40 - Red - This is a wine that has all the components to become a wonderful chardonnay, but needs a couple more years before it hits its straps. A classic chardonnay nose of grapefruit, creaminess and spicy oak. On the palate it’s powerful, yet well structured and balanced. The flavours are savoury with a further touch of grapefruit. A few more years and it should be singing.

Brown – I cannot really add more to the assessment by Red other than to say this is a wonderful wine that smells and tastes like the modern expression of Chardonnay I am very happy to see being produced in WA, Victoria, Adelaide Hills and beyond. Nice balance of new and old oak and as mentioned, a wine with several years ahead of it (with a drinking date dependent on how you like your Chardonnay).

2007 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon – $35 - Red - This was my wine of the night. I’d tried it at a tasting previously - - and this just reaffirmed my impressions. If you wanted to know what a Margaret River Cabernet smells like then you could do worse than smell this wine. Blackcurrant, violets, gravel, and a hint of chocolate combine to make this a beautiful smelling cabernet. The palate completes the promise of the nose. It has beautiful fruit, chocolate, a nice bit of minerality, and fine tannins, all of which are in balance, and suggests that this wine will age gracefully. Loved drinking this.

Brown – The Vasse Felix is wonderful value for money. I would put it in the upper echelon for reliable (easily obtainable in NSW) Margaret River Cabernets under $40. I agree that this wine had the archetypal Margaret River nose, with floral aromas and dusty notes. The balance and structure are typical of the 2007 Margaret River Cabernets I have had so far (not enough!), and I would assume this wine would last a decade in the cellar. A great wine to have with our main meal.

2008 Collector Marked Tree Shiraz – $25 - Red - While you would expect a Shiraz from Canberra to smell and taste different from a Cab Sav from Margaret River, it was still remarkable to me just how completely different the two wines were from each other. I would love to put these two wines in front of any naysayer when it comes to Australian wine, and then ask them to still argue that Aussie wine doesn’t express terroir and instead is industrial, over-oaked, and too alcoholic.

On the nose the wine reminds me a bit of other Canberra wines I have had, though also reminds me even more of a Rhone Valley Syrah. It’s got a touch of those pongy aromas that French syrah often has, along with some meaty/gamey aromas, and some spice. On the palate it is mouth filling, largely savoury in its flavours, with some pepper. Good length and I’ll definitely be interested to see how this wine develops and what secondary characteristics come through. Very nice drop.

Brown – Collector has picked up a few gongs (09 Penguin Guide best new winery) and receives justifiably impressive scores from respected reviewers, so stating that this wine was delicious is hardly a scoop. What I love about this winery is its range – 2 styles of Shiraz – the Marked Tree and the Reserve. We both have a few bottles of each in the cellar and this is the first Red and I tried.

For me the wine was medium bodied, though not lacking intensity. On the palate it had largely red fruit with the typical Canberra region spice and pepper (though not as intense as with other wines, in a good way). I agree this wine had the funkyness and gamey nose that Red refers to, and this gave the wine a uniqueness that I appreciated. As the label on the back of the bottle says – drink now or cellar for 10 years. I will be having an each way bet with the two bottles of this wine I have at home :- )

Summary - No real disagreements between the two of us on these three wines. The Collector shiraz provided a point of difference, but we both enjoyed and appreciated this. Three great wines that can be picked up for between $25-$35!

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