Friday, June 29, 2012

2010 TarraWarra J-Block Shiraz Yarra Valley

TarraWarra are best known for their premium quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, though the J Block Shiraz shows they have many strings to their bow.  The 2010 J Block has a cool climate core of white pepper, mixed spice and some savoury stalkyness on the nose, following throughout the palate.  The wine has pleasing dark cherry and blackberry fruit flavours, wound-up tannin, and an overall savoury finish that suggests the wine is building more power in the bottle. The TarraWarra J Block is an accessible but classy cool climate Shiraz that will still appeal to the warm climate, riper Shiraz fans. Nice result from a very good vintage.

Rating: 91 points
Closure: Screwcap
RRP: $35
ABV: 14%

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2010 Ross Hill Cabernet Franc (Orange)

While in Orange a couple of months back I had this wine over dinner at Lolli Redini’s, then the next day at the winery itself. Finally I had a bottle the other weekend at home. All three times I have been very impressed.

It has a highly fragrant and floral nose with notes of blueberry, fruit spice, and lovely oak. Great to smell. There’s a beautiful generosity of fruit on the palate, not unsurprising given the 14.5% alcohol, but it shows no heat and retains plenty of freshness. There’s a nice even flow to this wine as it develops some sour cherry and earth notes through the back palate that is somehow a bit reminiscent of a Hunter Shiraz. A bit of grassiness and notes of cedar add further appeal. The wine finishes with good length and drying tannin. Works well with food or on its own. Very good wine.


RRP: $36
ABV: 14.5%
Closure: Screwcap


Thursday, June 21, 2012


In the latest installment of the inter-gallactic battle for the future of wine, Obi-Wan, Luke and the Droids have set off for Mos Eisley, seeking a smuggler of Natural Wine who can transport them to Alderan. The fate of the Biodynamic Wine Alliance depends on their mission.

Click HERE to View Wine Wars Episode 3

Monday, June 18, 2012

Artifice . . . whither the winemaker?

Artifice. It’s a word that I’m pretty sure was sparingly used a few years ago in wine writing. Now it’s seemingly everywhere. Every second wine writer or commentator is using it in reference to winemaking input. An example below from a winery’s website is the kind of comment that has become common place

“no more than the bare essentials of winemaking artifice and intervention.”

What’s the definition of artifice? From the Oxford dictionary, “clever or cunning devices or expedients, especially as used to trick or deceive others”. From the Cambridge dictionary “(the use of) a clever trick or something intended to deceive”. Not exactly flattering, so to my mind if you are discussing winemaking artifice it’s not really a positive comment on the wine or the winemakers efforts. Using artifice to describe winemaking that does indeed trick up a wine and perhaps make it appear more impressive (at least in the short-term) than it is in reality makes sense to me. The issue I have is that it has come to be used more and more to simply describe winemaking input. And while wine insiders might kind of understand what is being said, I’ve got no doubt that the average consumer understands artifice in its proper usage, and would be unlikely to view it as a positive description in a tasting note. Moreover, the inherent implication of using artifice to describe any kind of winemaking input, is that "natural" wines are the only truly authentic wines (being without artifice). This is pretty binary and to my mind an unhelpful view of wines and winemaking.

One wine writer wrote of a premium Margaret River Chardonnay “Lots of winemaking artifice involved here – needs time, but this should be fascinating to watch as it evolves”. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. A wine with a lot of artifice is unlikely to evolve well at all. I’m sure what this wine writer is actually referring to is fairly standard winemaking, in that this Margaret River Chardonnay sees a fair bit of new oak and undergoes partial malolactic fermentation. Well, to me this is more than legitimate winemaking input, not some attempt to trick up a wine. These are the same winemaking techniques that many of the greatest white Burgundies undergo. If it must be argued that this is indeed artifice, then a Chardonnay needs to be aged in a neutral stainless steel and undergo no malolactic to be regarded as without artifice (a sad, sad world if that is the definition of Chardonnay that isn’t tricked up).

While I understand the reaction to the very real artifice of many industrial Australian wines over the past couple of decades, it’s disappointing to see an overreaction that has the word bandied about and seemingly diminishes the entirely positive contribution of many passionate winemakers. Without wanting to define specifically what techniques are of artifice (everyone will have their own personal matrix), if someone states that a wine that goes through reverse osmosis to reduce alcohol, and then has some tannin chucked in, is a wine of artifice, then that to me would make some sense. But winemaking decisions about stems or no stems, how much new oak, lees stirring, levels of malolactic fermentation etc. are to my mind not winemaking artifice. To argue that they are, is to say there is something disingenuous about these inputs. For many winemakers, however, there’s not a hint of deception in any these decisions, but rather choices as to what will in their opinion produce great wine. They might bugger up one of these inputs and produce an unbalanced wine, but that’s another point entirely.

This may all be considered English language semantics on my part. Perhaps, but I think there are still plenty of wines out there that ought to be called out for their artifice, and that the affect of the term shouldn't be lessened by incorrectly applying it to all and sundry. To do so diminishes the efforts of many passionate winemakers endeavouring to make great wine.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2010 Mountadam High Eden Chardonnay (Eden Valley)

A great story and unique wine.

Mountadam was set up in 1972  by David Wynn, founder of Wynns in Coonawarra. Wynn would have been one of Australia's more significant wine figures, regardless of whether he had set up Mountadam or not. Mountadam, however, only furthered his legacy. It was was his attempt to find an elevated, cool-climate site, in order to produce great Chardonnay. This endeavour is of course myriad now, but Wynn's Mountadam decision was truly unique for its time. As such, I’ve always liked the idea of Mountadam, but for some reason have very rarely got around to trying their wines.

One of the interesting aspects to Mountadam Chardonnay is that at 550 metres in the Eden Valley, it is well and truly in Riesling country. Indeed this is where some of Australia’s finest Rieslings are born. Can a wine region produce both great Riesling and Chardonnay? This wine answers this questions very strongly in the affirmative.

To the wine. Many of my favourite Australian Chardonnays see 100% malolactic fermentation and plenty of new oak. This is not because I’m in love with overt oak or blousy wines, far from it, but because the best chardonnay grapes take new oak and malo in their stride. Great Chardonnay sites can produce wines that retain a steely acidity and a sense of restraint, while benefitting from the further complexity and texture that malolactic fermentation and new oak brings. Wineries like Sorrenberg, Savaterre and Main Ridge produce great examples of this style. Mountadam can be added to this list.

This is a wine that leaves an impression. It’s quite a heady Chardonnay with bold flavours of citrus, peach and grilled nuts. Spicy oak is prominent but in balance with the fruit. Lovely acidity. Tasting it over 3 days it became more and more refined and integrated with time, while a beautiful pebbly minerality began to emerge. Smooth yet powerful. The last couple of mouthfuls were superb as the wine really stretched out and strutted its stuff. Leave this in the cellar for a couple of years and then enjoy. 4 Stars +


RRP: $30
ABV: 14.0%
Closure: Screwcap
Drink: 2014-2020


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Natural Wine Vs Industrial Wine

Yelland and Papps Devote Greenock Shiraz 2010

The 2010 Yelland and Papps Devote Greenock Shiraz was made using grapes from a single site in the northern Greenock sub-region of the Barossa Valley. Inky purple in colour and with a fruitcake spice and black fruit nose, the wine has impressive, silky blackberry, spicy dark plumb fruit flavours flowing through from the front to back palate, some milk chocolate and chinotto flavours on the finish and pliant, ripe tannins.

The fruit flavours are powerful and sweet, though balanced with the sensitive (and relatively understated) use of new and old American and French oak. This is not a subtle wine, more seductive and overt than demure and suggestive. However, the result is not confected or overwhelming, just enjoyable and moreish.

After three days on the tasting bench, the wine didn’t budge much, other than for the tannins to assert themselves some more and the sultry fruit cake spice.
This is another example of Yelland and Papp’s enjoyable, fruity and flavoursome Devote range, and from a very good vintage – it has enough restraint, expensive oak treatment and structure to suggest it will age nicely in the cellar, yet will please a majority of wine drinkers right now – a ‘win-win’ approach.

Rating: 93pts
RRP: $32
ABV: 14.5%
Source: Sample
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