Sunday, February 28, 2010

2008 Mike Press Cabernet Sauvignon ($10 from the cellar door, $14 retail Chambers Cellars)

The Mike Press range of wines ( ) became all the rage in 2007 when people realised their amazing value for money (including yours truly!). I have tried several bottles from the range in the last 18 months and must concur with all the positive reviews. If you are not familiar with this label, grab yourself a bottle. They are some of the best value wines on offer in Australia, and are pretty much dependable across the range, though especially with the red wines.

The 2008 Cabernet (and also the Shiraz from the same vintage) has distinctive vanilla oak on the nose and has medium to full bodied varietal dark berry fruit on the palate. The tannins were supple and the wine did not finish too hot or overly sweet (pleasant change for a wine in this price range). It could cellar for a few years, but is drinking very nicely now. For the price it is neither soft and simple or harsh and tannic, but ‘just right’. Mr Medvedev recommended it as well – a true peoples wine.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2008 Pio Cesare Il Nebbio - $35

Pio Cesare is a family winery that was founded in 1881 and has pretty much produced wine every vintage since that time with the exception of the World Wars. A great, traditional Barolo winery, though this wine is in many ways a very modern expression of Nebbiolo. It is an entry level Nebbiolo that’s meant to be consumed early. It has a very short maceration period so as to reduce the tannins in what is normally a very tannic variety. It doesn’t see any oak, and is released about 6 months after vintage having spent that time in stainless steel. This is all very different from the long maceration and time in oak you get with Barolo and Langhe Nebbiolo. I wrote in a previous post on Barolo, that good Nebbiolo has the nose of a good pinot noir and the body of tannic cabernet. With the way this wine has been made its falls more on the Pinot side of the ledger . . .

Tasted this wine over two nights. A light, clear crimson that hasn’t developed the orange tinge that is normally evident in the variety. A fragrant, varietal nose of strawberry and cherry, some earthiness and a hint of lavender. It has a touch of sweet fruit on the front of the palate, but is a largely a savoury wine, with sour fruit flavours, spice, earthiness and some drying, chewy tannins. Its medium bodied and has decent length. Really enjoyed this.


Royal Sydney Wine Show Tasting Part 4 - Shiraz

As the reviled/revered Robert M Parker Jr did say, it is Shiraz that produces (Australia’s) greatest wines. The wines on display at the Sydney Royal Wine Show tasting strongly emphasise this point.

2006 Mt Pleasant Maurice O'Shea -15.5 and a Bronze - sweaty saddle, typically savoury, meaty, tannic. Strong, but not overpowering oak, chocolate on palate, nice sour finish with bit of liquorice. Will age well.
2005 Mt Langi Ghiran “Langi” 18.7 Gold – deserved the rating, beautiful dark crimson colour, spice and aniseed/liquorice with some meatyness on the nose. Soft, round and supple in the mouth, full fruit sweetness from front to back palate, finishing long and smooth - superb wine.
2005 Saltram No 1 – 16.7 Bronze – Black and instantly recognisable SA colour. Savoury nose, possibly from the lack of a good decant? Fruit flavours not as obvious as you would expect, with oak a bit intrusive. Strong tannin and a slight dilute characteristic. 2006 received a deserved Gold and 18.5.
2004 d’Arenberg Dead Arm – 13.5 - black, sweet blackcurrent nose, bit of funkyness, good structure, lively fruit. Not great, but undeserving of the low rating (the 2007 received a 16.0 and Bronze, 2006 a 16.7 and Bronze in other categories).
2006 Seppelts Benno 18.5 Gold . Has all the characteristics of a red from the region (nice dark fruit and all-spice), though there are unmistakable,firm, ballsy tannins. Whether they soften with age will be the key to whether this wine gets even better.
2007 Seppelts St Peters Great Western– typical of the Great Western/Grampians wines tasted today – liquorice, aniseed, spice, black and blue berry. Nose a bit funky, though not overpowering.
2008 Best’s Great Western Thompson Family Shiraz – 16.0 Bronze – Very nice wine. Like the Bin 0 but more plummy, plush and gorgeous. Soft in mouth, finishing with loads of spice, drying tannin and ripe fruit.
2007 Meerea Park Hell Hole Shiraz – 15.2-More closed less pong but similar rounder less acidity than Alex Munroe. Clearly ‘of the Hunter’ while the single vineyard fruit adds some unique, atypical elements. Both this and the Alexander Munroe were top examples of Hunter Shiraz, and held their own amongst the other Shiraz being tasted.
Others – 2006 Trevor Jones Wild Witch – 18.5 Gold. Didn’t taste it on the day as the trophy hunters had guzzled it within an hour of the doors opening, though have had several of the WW over the years from different vintages. This wine is always of a very high quality, though it has been a few years since it has received a medal at this show – about time. No 2007 being made.
2005 Mount Pleasant OP&OH Shiraz – 13.8 – no tasting notes recorded, though we both have a few of these in the cellar and like the wine. On the day it was as we remembered – in no way a 13.8 wine. Quite a comical rating, but probably a result of the (hit and miss) Show rating system.

Friday, February 19, 2010

2010 Royal Sydney Wine Show – Part 3 – Cabernet Sauvignon

Love my Cabernet and was excited to see some of Australia’s top examples of this variety on show. The 2007 Vasse Felix Cab Sav, which we’ve reviewed on RedtoBrown ,
got the top gold in one of the Cab Sav categories. I disagreed with some of the scores the judges gave wines, but this was one wine where I was definitely in agreement. Other wines that we tried . . .

2001 Jack Mann Cabernet – 17.2 – Silver - Varietal, leafy, tannins still good, good length, oodles of blackcurrant. Will sail through 20 years.

2004 Jack Mann Cabernet – 15.7 – Bronze - More fruit on nose than the 01, with leafy, minty aromas. Grippy, drying tannins, great length. Quality obvious and should have been in gold territory in my opinion.

2006 Wynns Coonawarra Alex 88 Cabernet Sauvignon – 15.8 - Bronze 07 – hit of oak, not as intense, drops off from the mid palate, powdery tannins, finish not especially long. Enjoyable but a clear contrast in quality between this and the 04 Jack Mann despite the similar scores from the judges.

2004 Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon - 18.5 – Gold – ripe, fleshy fruit, leafy, eucalypt. Excellent direct line and length, but not much in the way of tannin.

2005 Houghtons Gladstone Cabernet Sauvignon – 18.5 – Gold - Margaret river nose, a bit leafy. Nice intensity on the palate with chalky tannins.

2004 Geoff Merrill Reserve Cabernet – 14.3 - nice floral, fruity nose. Soft blackcurrant, nice integrated oak and tannins on finish. Good drop and would rate it higher than the judges.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 Royal Sydney Wine Show – Part 2 - Chardonnay

If you’d been in a cryogenic chamber for the past 10 years, I think you would have been shocked and pleasantly surprised to have sampled the chardonnays on offer at the Royal Sydney Wine Show last Saturday. The one characteristic common to vast majority of them was the subtle, judicious use of oak. These wines had varying degrees of perceptible oak and malolactic fermentation, but none were heavy or the over the top the way they were 10 years ago. Virtually all the Chardonnays that Brown and I tried were quality drops.

2008 Voyager Estate Chardonnay – 15.0 - varietal nose, sensitive use oak and a lick of malo, grapefruit on palate, bit of spice on long finish. Good stuff. Definitely needs time but what were the judges thinking with a score of 15?
2008 Bay of Fires Chardonnay – 18.7 – Gold - Stronger, oakier nose, more open drink now style, top quality, though not especially intense.

2008 Vasse Felix Heytesbury – 17.7 – Silver - very subtle oak, nice citrus /sour flavours . Nice smokiness on finish – top wine.

2008 Giant Steps Sexton Chardonnay – 17.2 – Silver - Fruitier nose in comparison to others with little oak or malo influence. Rounder and fatter on palate and finishes with nice intensity.

2008 Paringa Estate Chardonnay - 15.3 - brussell sprouts on nose, some spice, rounded, juicy, drink now style. Definitely different

2008 Ferngrove Estate Diamond Chardonnay – 18.5 – Gold – nice nose of grapefruit and oak. Round sweet fruit at front, finishes nicely smokey, bitter grapefruit. Good stuff

2008 Penfolds Bin 311 Chardonnay - 18.5 - Gold - Chablis style. Crisp lemon and refreshing acidity. Nice. Will age.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 Sydney Royal Wine Show Tasting Part 1 - Riesling and Semillon

Saturday 13 February saw the annual Sydney Royal Wine Show held at the Sydney Showgrounds in Homebush. As usual it was an overwhelming tasting, with in excess of 2000 bottles open in the one room. This is the first of 4 posts we will make summarising some of the wines Red and I tasted over the course of the day. Notes are a mix between the both of us (consensus and democracy at work) and were hastily jotted down on the iPhone, so more a snapshot than a considered tasting.

These Rieslings and Semillons were a pleasure to taste. Most still had many years left to develop further in the cellar, though are delicious now. RedtoBrown has banged on about how good Riesling is (not alone in that view, thankfully), though you can also add NSW (and some Barossa) Semillon to the list of great value whites.

2004 Pewseyvale Contours
 a bit of developing kerosene on the nose, obvious lime/lemon profile, some weight on palate, intense, ok length, typical Eden flintyness, years left.
2005 Leo Buring  Leonay Eden Valley - lightly golden yellow, colour, less obvious horsepower/ weight on
palate, finer style to the Pewseyvale. Nice length with spice on middle and back palate.
2005 Peter Lehmann Wigan - sweeter on nose and palate, light and fine. Finishes powerfully strong, good length.
2004 Crawford River Henty  - unique/atypical nose, honey, oily wax, spice, nice acidity. Interesting departure point from the SA Rieslings. Deserved Gold.

2004 Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon colour bright and clear. honey, toast, butter, but crisp lemon acidity in mouth - still has years ahead.
1999 Tyrrell's HVD - Suprisingly light yellow given age, sawdust-like woody smells, lovely lemon citric sourness on finish. Still years ahead of it.
1999 Tyrrell's Vat 1 - Toasty, nice light golden yellow colour, length good, not as intense as HVD,
savoury with great level of natural acid.
2003 Mount Pleasant Lovedale - spice Ginger? Hazlenut? Aged golden yellow colour – random oxidisation?  There is a party going on in this bottle that needs to be shut down. Would like to try another bottle of this before making any judgement.

Summary: Our first tasting of the day, and most of the wines were superb. The fact all of these wines will cellar adds to their appeal.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Guerrieri Rizzardi Prosecco – NV - $30

The bottle says “extra dry” on the label, and I’m pleased to say the wine lived up to its claim. This dryness is a characteristic I love in many Prosecco’s that I have tried.

Guerrieri Rizzardi is a winery near Bardolino in the Veneto wine region in Italy. The wine’s colour is a very light gold, and is possibly the lightest coloured Prosecco that I can remember seeing. Its nose is not particularly intense, but it has citrus aromas and a hint of yeast. It’s on the palate, however, that this wine has its real appeal. It’s dry, crisp, savoury and refreshing. It has reasonable length and a nice aftertaste. It’s the kind of sparkling wine that I want to drink most of the time. Yum!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pinot Noir Face-Off: 2008 Port Phillip Estate, 2008 Mt Difficulty, 2006 Toolangi, 2007 Dog Point

As flagged previously, RedtoBrown have wanted to hold a Pinot Noir ‘Face Off’ for a while. Both of us are relatively new to Pinot Noir (compared to our staples of Shiraz, Cabernet etc), and are increasing our knowledge and appreciation of the grape with every payday. In preparation for the Face Off, we decided to grab 4 bottles from 4 different regions, split 2-2 New Zealand and Australia. We also set the rule that one bottle had to be from the Mornington Peninsula, and one from either Martinborough (ideally) or Central Otago (the regions in the respective countries which we believe make arguably the standout examples of Pinot Noir). The two other wines could be from any region in Australia and New Zealand other than the ones mentioned above. The wines were tasted blind followed by the odd glass or two being consumed with duck breast in a spice and port sauce.

Wine 1 - 2008 Port Phillip Estate – Mornington Peninsula ($33) – Red - Classic light, clear colour. The nose was aromatic and varietal with cherry, and some strawberry. Also had a hint of rose which reminded by a bit of the nose you get with many Barolos. The palate was savoury and complex. Flavours of sour cherry, spice with a dry finish of good length. Really didn’t know where this was from other than I picked it as an Aussie pinot rather than a Kiwi pinot, and was surprised to find out it was a Mornington Peninsula, given that most Mornington Peninsula I’ve had has been a deeper, more powerful style of pinot. Continued to really enjoy this as we subsequently drunk the wine over the course of the evening. Will definitely be popping a couple of these in the cellar.

Brown – Light crimson colour, not brilliantly bright and with a hint of brickish red. Varietal nose of strawberry underpinned by some cherry. On the palate the wine was savoury though given its potential, will probably gain more complexity in the cellar. The wine had good line, length and acidity, suggesting this wine is built to last, but will be great with many different foods from now till whenever you want to drink it. The structure and overall elegance (vs power) had me guessing this to be from Central Otago. Like Red, I was surprised this was a Mornington Peninsula Pinot (more in the Kooyong Clonale style than a Paringa Peninsula).

Wine 2 – 2008 Mt Difficulty – Central Otago ($48-55) – Red - This wine was noticeably darker in colour and had a deeper cherry nose with a hint of oak. Also has a touch of green on the nose. Through the palate it had more perceptible line and length, with some fruit sweetness on the front before delivering a savoury finish with a hint of spice. Seemed to notice a bit more alcohol on the palate than the previous wine as well (though subsequently discovered both wines are apparently 14% so maybe I was imagining things). Thought this might have been a Mornington. Reckon this wine will show up really well with a couple more years of cellaring.

Brown – Darker than the first wine and noticeably sweeter on the nose. I could not smell any extra alcohol. Softer and rounder than the first wine with fuller varietal fruit flavours on the darker side of the berry spectrum. Pleasantly savoury in the mouth with nice line, finishing with sour cherry, liquorice and spice. A more instantly accessible ‘drink on its own; style, that still had the structure to suggest cellaring potential. A very nice wine from one of New Zealand’s best.

Wine 3 – 2006 Toolangi Pinot Noir – Yarra Valley ($20-25) - Red - An interesting slight orange tinge to the colour of this wine. A sweet aromatic nose of cherry and strawberry with both a touch of oak and a hint of green. Really enjoyable on the palate with sweet fruit, a bit of spice, and good length through the dry finish. Thought this might have been the Dog Point which ended up being Wine 4. Continued to be a very enjoyable wine through the course of the evening, and at $20-25 was the value for money pinot of the night.

Brown - As a $19 pickup from Dan Murphy’s, the 2006 Toolangi is amazing value. It did not disappoint on the night, masquerading for me as a more expensive Mornington Peninsula Pinot (until the reveal made a fool of my limited knowledge of Pinot regions!!). The Toolangi punched above its weight among more expensive wines, and is a great advertisement for Yarra Valley Pinot. Nice dark crimson colour with strawberry and raspberry scents and a touch of aniseed and spice. The Toolangi has powerful fruit at the front of the palate, with a bit of pleasant savoury, drying stalky tannin on the finish.

Wine 4 – 2007 Dog Point – Malborough ($39) - Red - Darker coloured pinot, with an intense nose of dark fruits, cherry, and some meaty aromas. Powerful through the palate, with savoury flavours, good length and the most impressive tannins of the four wines we had tried. Thought that this might have been a Martinborough that Brown might have purchased. As it turned out it was from a ‘borough, just Mal rather than Martin! This was in many ways the most immediately enjoyable of the wines, delivering perhaps the greatest sense of hedonism, while still being reasonably elegant.

Brown – the Dog Point came out of the glass more like one of the crazy pooches from the movie ‘Best in Show’ than a disciplined New Zealand Cattle dog, but for me this was a bonus. Hedonistic is a suitable descriptor, though a Sarah Palin popularist (sans any Tea Party/ Glenn Beck mutual appreciation gumpf) this wine is not. Cloudy in the glass with a deep, slightly dull Cherry-crimson (which settled given time), the Dog Point had sweet strawberry and powerful dark berry scents. In the mouth the wine touched every base on the berry spectrum, though leaning towards cherry: in short, pleasing complexity and powerful, intense, juicy fruit flavours. There was some firm bitterness on the finish, though not a criticism. My favourite wine of the tasting, and also the most powerful (read into that what you will!).

Summary - Red - Four quality pinots that are all decent cellaring propositions. While they were all different, I’m not sure they gave me a greater insight into the characteristics of different regions. Instead a lot of the differences were as much I think a reflection of the winemaking styles of the different winemakers. The Toolangi was the best value pinot, the Dog Point the most delicious, and the Port Phillip the one I’d be most keen on cellaring and seeing how it develops.

Brown – A great spread of low-medium priced Pinots from the new world. All would benefit from some time in the cellar. I agree with Red that the Port Phillip Pinot should cellar well. I would like to see the Mt Difficulty with a few more years under its belt. As for the Toolangi – if you can find any of the 2006 left, snap it up as it is a great drop in the more full flavoured Pinot profile.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

2001 Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)

I was interested to drink this wine both from the perspective of simply wanting to drink a Bin 407 with a bit of bottle age, as well as it being a wine that had divided wine critics with descriptions ranging from “vegetal” and “overcooked” to “luscious, fruit-defined, black-red and hummingly powered” depending on which review you read. End drinking windows also ranged from 2009 through to 2017. Having now had a couple of glasses I definitely fall down on the positive side of the ledger . . .

The wine had a classic blackcurrant nose, with some nice oak, chocolate and a hint of leafiness. Yum on the palate, with good fruit, chocolate, and some spiciness before finishing with gentle tannins. I’m not sure how much more complexity it will gain with age but it certainly has a few more years in it at least. Lovely Cabernet.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

2008 Hope Estate Chardonnay - $18

Despite the pedigree of a wine like Tyrrell’s Vat 47, good chardonnay and the Hunter Valley is not an obvious association. Chardonnay finds its purest expression in the cool climate of Burgundy, and in Australia in a moderate climate like the Margaret River, and a cooler climate like the Yarra Valley. The Hunter is a hot, humid region that in some ways shouldn't produce quality wine and yet consistently produce wonderful, age worthy Shiraz, the world’s best Semillon, and perhaps most surprisingly, some decent Chardonnay.

The wine already has a lovely, deep golden colour and I’d suggest is a chardonnay to be enjoyed in the next couple of years. For a chardonnay it has quite a fruity nose, with nectarine, some citrus notes, and interestingly a hint of butterscotch. Oak is barely noticeable and well integrated. On the palate it has nice fruit sweetness, with good line and focus through the mid palate before finishing with some sour grapefruit flavours. Enjoyable chardonnay in the early drinking style, with enough quality and complexity to put it above plenty of other sub $20 chardonnays you’ll find.

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