Monday, September 26, 2011

2011 Lark Hill Riesling (Canberra District)

I increasingly enjoy Canberra Riesling. It provides a nice change up from my Eden Valley and Clare Valley staples. This 2011 Lark Hill has an expressive, floral nose of apples, citrus, and a note of slate. It drinks in a very unforced manner, with clean acidity and a nice line and length of flavour. The finish is all citrus. A nice wine that should be better with a bit of time in bottle. 3.5 Stars


RRP: $30
ABV: 11.5%


Friday, September 23, 2011

2008 Gros Tollot Les Fontanilles (Minervois, France)

Cicero and Pliny the Elder were apparently big fans of the wines from Minervois, so as a lover of ancient history it only makes sense that I try a few more wines from this appellation.

Minervois lies between Carcassone and Narbonne. Carignan used to be the dominant grape here, and maybe that’s what Cicero was drinking after addressing the Roman Senate, but these days Minervois reds are also blended with Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault et al.

Anne Gros and Jean Paul Tollot are well known Burgundy winemakers who have set up a winery in Minervois. Rather than me writing about them and their site in Minervois, I think this video tells their story well

The wine itself is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault. It has an appealing nose of berries, chocolate, some leather, and a touch of funk. To drink it’s medium-full bodied, and would go really well with some game meat. It has bright fruit, a real juiciness and a hint of that chocolate before turning predominantly savoury, with notes of dried herbs and a nice salty minerality running its length. Fine tannins frame it all very nicely. It's drinking well now but should also develop some more complexity over the next 5 years. Really enjoyed this.


RRP: $60
ABV: 14%


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Downfall of a Cult Californian Winery

Earlier this year legendary wine critic, Robert Parker, announced that he would no longer be covering California, and would be focusing solely on Bordeaux and the Rhone. Responsibilities for California have been passed to Parker's associate, Antonio Galloni. One Californian winery was not particularly happy with this news . . .

Warning - there are a few four letter words coming your way.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Teusner 2010 'The Gentleman' Eden Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Teusner’s ‘The Gentleman’ Cabernet Sauvignon appears to be the Cabernet sister to the Riebke Shiraz – same price point, similar labelling, but also similar bang for your buck? Let’s take a look:

Subtle liquorice/ aniseed, molasses, allspice and largely black fruits on the nose,.  Ripe black fruit on the palate, initial cola flavours, yet finishes with a savoury herbal/dark chocolate note, a degree of alcohol heat and pleasantly surprising length. The tannins are ripe and soft, medium to full bodied and a nice intensity and a silky mouthfeel.  
(Almost predictably), at around $18-22 per bottle, this is another promising, good value release from Teusner, alongside the excellent ‘The Independent’ Shiraz Mataro and Riebke Shiraz ranges.  They are a winery on top of its game from a wine making and wine marketing perspective.

Rating – 90points / 3.5 Stars
ABV – 14.5%
RRP: $18-22

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2009 Sorrenberg Chardonnay (Beechworth)

I love Beechworth Chardonnay and on a value for money basis, Sorrenberg’s is arguably the best of them. As with most Beechworth Chardonnay it undergoes 100% malolactic fermentation, which generally gives the wine a generosity and creaminess that very much agrees with me.

It starts with an expressive, rich nose of peach and spicy oak. Then to drink it is bang on. It has a wonderful balance between fruit and savoury flavours, and then creaminess and minerality in terms of texture. The thing that really marks this wine out though is this beautiful streak of lime juice that runs its long length. It’s a point of difference and gives the wine that bit of an X factor. Give it a good decant and its drinking beautifully now, but ideally leave it in the cellar for another few years yet. Vying with the 05 Tarrawarra Reserve Chardonnay as my Chardonnay of the year thus far. Wonderful wine.


RRP: $49
ABV: 14%


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Organic & Biodynamic wine tasting

There is an increasing trend in the world of wine towards organic and/or biodynamic vineyard management. By and large I am happy to drink organic, biodynamic, or conventional wines and just assess what I see in the glass. Many people engaged in the debate, however, either dismiss many of the ideas, particularly around biodynamics, or conversely are very passionate in support of these two vineyard approaches, and are generally of the belief that organic/biodynamic wines are inherently superior to more conventionally made wines. A tasting at the Oak Barrel in Sydney, where Gilles Lapalus from Sutton Grange in Bendigo and Eric Semmler from 919 Wines in the Riverland, took us through a number of organic/biodynamic wines, was a great opportunity to explore and discuss this trend towards organic/biodynamic vineyard management.

To first define what each approach is (at least as far as I understand it). Organic wines are simply wines made from grapes where no chemicals, herbicides, pesticides etc. have been used in the vineyard. This organic approach is meant to result in a healthier vineyard, better grapes, and ultimately better wine. To me anyway, it makes perfect sense, and I’ve seen it in other agricultural products like chickens, tomatoes etc. They just generally taste a bit better than their conventional counterparts. The other consideration with organics is the longer term health of a vineyard. While maybe the occasional use of some chemical agent in a vineyard mightn’t ultimately be that detrimental, their consistent use year after year, over decades, must surely start to affect the health of a vineyard and therefore the quality of grapes it can turn out, at least in comparison to an organic approach. Ultimately, I don’t actually see much that is controversial in organic wine, other than it could present vineyard management challenges in a tough vintage when disease is more likely.

Biodynamics is altogether more controversial and much harder to define. To simplify it is organics with a cosmic and spiritual bent. Its starting point are the writings of Rudolph Steiner, and generally result in a more holistic approach to vineyard management. A lot of the more obvious aspects of biodynamics focus on composting and preparations that tie in to some extent with organics, however tend to go a step further into some somewhat obscure practices. The most famous of which is Preparation 500, which involves burying a cow’s horn full of manure in the vineyard in winter, and then digging it up in spring to release a whole bunch of apparently helpful microbes into the vineyard.

After that biodynamics moves into some of its more controversial aspects such as working in sync with moon cycles. Semmler from 919 wines, claims that the key determinant to his vines ripening are the moon cycles. While heat and the season obviously play a major role, Semmler says that the moon moving into a waxing cycle will bring on the ripening he requires to pick, rather than a heat wave or any other factor.

It’s probably quite easy to be cynical about these things (and to be honest I’m still a bit of a sceptic). The thing, however, that I will say in defence of those that practice biodynamics (at least those that I have met), is that they are far from the imagined airy fairy hippies dancing naked around their vineyards. Often they are pragmatic, experienced vignerons who have worked in both conventional and organic/biodynamic vineyards over many years. Experience has shown them what they believe to be a better approach.

So to some of the highlights of the evening -

2010 “919” Vermentino (Riverland)
Vermentino loves the heat and would seem a good grape to be growing in the Riverland. This is a white wine that offers a point of difference. Green apples, citrus, spice and a lovely creaminess. It has a nice sense of texture and grip. Would be fantastic with white meats.

2009 Ngeringa Pinot Noir (Adelaide Hills)
This is an understated Pinot Noir that really sneaks up on you. Light, fresh, and savoury with some lovely sour cherry. It never loses focus, and has a very long finish. Lovely Pinot.

2009 “919” Tempranillo (Riverland)
Once again this wine offers a point of difference. It has a nose of dark cherry and liquorice all sorts. It’s a rich and powerful wine, but retains a sense of balance with flavours of cherry, earthiness and some lovely tannin. Nice

2009 Dard & Ribo Hermitage Rouge (Rhone Valley)
This is such a fresh and sexy wine. Its characterised by beautiful juicy fruit and is dangerously easy to drink. Lovely berry fruits and spice. Mellifluous. Would buy and drink a lot of this if it wasn’t $100 a bottle.

2006 Sutton Grange Syrah (Bendigo)
This wine is a tannic beast, and I love it all the more for it. It has a beautifully perfumed nose with a nice touch of funk. The palate is one of plush dark fruit, spice, and those amazing tannins. If Bendigo Shiraz can ever look like a Barolo then this wine is it.

These wines were undoubtedly wines of character, interest, and terroir. I really enjoyed tasting through such a line up. Did they, however, strike me as inherently better or more enjoyable than a line up of perhaps more conventionally made wines? Not necessarily. The trend towards organics/biodynamics I view as a positive one, but at the same time as just one element in amongst numerous others vineyard and winemaking inputs that go into producing the wonderful end product.

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