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Monday 30 April 2012

Brisbane - A Month of Wine

One of the reasons I got involved with Swirl, Sniff, Spit was a perceived lack of wine tasting events in Brisbane.  Now, in the coming month of May, there is a fantastic array of events happening - a great month for the weather is getting cooler and vintage is over pretty much over for the majority of Australia's winemaking community.  

I though it worthwhile capturing them here, I have no commercial affiliation to any of these, and simply wish to publicise them in the hope that they may come to the attention of a wine loving public.  Use them or lose them as the saying goes...

The events listed here are in chronological order.

Swirl Sniff Spit - Rhone White Tasting - 15th May - Era Bistro
As already stated, I have a personal involvement with this group.  May sees guest presenters Jeremy Pringle, writer at WineWillEatItself and Winemaker Rory Lane of Story Wines leading attendees through White Rhone varieties (principally Marsanne, Rousanne and Viognier) and blends thereof.  Aromatic and textural, these varietals are not necessarily known to many, but can age fantastically and pair well with food.  Follow Swirl, Sniff, Spit on twitter and facebook.

Hunter Valley New Generation - 17th May - Venue tbc
I've already posted on this here.  It's a fantastic opportunity to meet a group of innovative winemakers, pushing boundaries, making fantastic wines - and most often doing so with a smile on their face.  It's a rare opportunity to be able to experience an event like this, where all wines will be poured by the winemakers.  Do it: tickets available here.

International Chardonnay Day - 24th May - Clovely Estate City Cellar Door
Notwithstanding hosting this event, the Clovely Estate City Cellar Door (at Red Hill) is a fantastic space and I recently heard from the Chief Vinsomniac that plans are afoot for expansion.  Anyway...these varietal tasting events are an excellent opportunity to taste a range of wines, across a diverse range of styles and regions.  And Chardonnay, possibly more than any other grape, grows in such a range of region of regions, with the winemakers thumbprint easily identified on it.  Contact details for Clovely Estate are via their website.

New World or Old World Wines With Peter Marchant - 30-31 May - Spring Brisbane
Peter Marchant is one of Brisbane's most highly regarded Sommeliers and is currently Fine Wine Manager at Spring Brisbane, a fantastic restaurant and cooking school on Felix and Mary in Brisbane's CBD.  Peter Marchant is hosting two wine tastings in May, firstly the opportunity to taste through New World wines with Peter on 30th May, and then the following night on the 31st Peter will be taking attendees through Old World wines.  A fantastic opportunity to learn from one of the best in the game.

Like I say, no commercial to any of these (other than my involvement with Swirl, Sniff, Spit which is purely for love) and just would love to foster and support a passionate wine community in Brisbane.

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Zema Estate Family Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

You know what to expect as you approach the wine, a rich, mix of damson, plum, cassis and chocolate and subtle nuances of oak.  It had me on first introduction.

A wine that is incredibly smooth, it shows no sign of its 15% alcohol, it's a wine that's plush, a wine of depth, substance and power.  Dark berry fruit threads along the line, ample support from tannin structure and cedary oak.  All of this is punctuated by some regional eucalypt.

May not be to the liking of some Cabernet purists who seek elegance, for this is firmly in the 'big' mould, but it has excellent balance and structure.  92 - Very Good
Source: Gift
Price: $55
Alcohol: 15%
Closure: Screwcap

Pyramids Road Mourvédre 2010

Give this a good decant before drinking, just helps bring some of the fruit through and create a more enjoyable Mataro drinking experienceInitially it's quite a 'woody' wine, get through that and you'll see hallmark notes of dark cherry and plum, supported by some spice on the nose, star anise and clove for me.

Smooth on entry, moreishly so, grainy tannin provides textural interest, the spice a counterpoint to this and the fruit that flows into the palate.

There's good length too, it's more of the same spice - a hint of liquorice - and fruit; carried, propelled by the tannin.  For me and my Mataro addiction I'd have liked to have seen more classic fruit character coming through on the nose.  

I had the privilege of tasting a barrel sample (still going through malolactic conversion) and I'm really looking forward to that wine, it's already exhibiting fantastic depth and intensity of flavour, an aromatic profile of depth and intensity - what I have come to expect in this varietal. 90/91 - Good/ Very Good

Source: Gift
Price: $30
Alcohol: 14.5%
Closure: Screwcap

Domaine Lucci Pinot Noir 2009

For me, the wines of Domaine Lucci/ Lucy Margaux/ Anton Van Klopper were a star that shone very brightly around the end of 2010/ early 2011, and then faded just as quickly.  I was initially rather taken with the Wines: the Wildman Pinot Noir had me enthralled; the 'Red' (2008 and 2010) fantastic juicy, easy-drinking wines; and the Lucy Margaux single-vineyard wine left me a little hollow, I expected more.  And it failed to deliver.  My issue maybe, but the end result was I left a couple of bottles in the cellar to pluck up the courage to revisit.

Yes - Wet stone, damp earth, mulch and woody-stemmy characters greet you on arrival, background sour cherry and some muted cherry - all good so far.  In the mouth, a little edgy, more cherry coming on, the fruit is quite tart.  There's an edge to the wine, a touch of mineral, adding interest - not prominent, but noticeable nonetheless.   Further, there's a pleasurable mix of spice - some pepper - carried by the tannin on the palate, the tannin carrying the line of the wine forward to it's conclusion. Rather enjoyable this: 90 - Good.

Source: Retail, Spiros Toowong
Price: $30 ish
Alcohol: 13.5%
Closure: DIAM

Friday 27 April 2012

Prepping for the Good Food and Wine Show

This is a guest post that I did for the Good Food and Wine Show blog.  Fairly basic, it outlines some pointers for folk to get the best out of attending the show.  I drew from experience as both an attendee and also having worked on a stand in 2011. The blog in its original context can be found here.

It's that time of year when Winos and Foodies start getting excited about the good Food and Wine Show coming to their respective state capital city (Tasmania excepted).  Starting with Melbourne (June 1-3), then Sydney (June 22-24), Perth (July 13-15), Adelaide (October 12-14) and then finally Brisbane (November 9-11).  The shows are an excellent opportunity for the wine lover to get to see new and exciting releases from some of Australia's top wineries.
Now, whilst the temptation may be there to avail of the samples on offer, here are a few handy tips you can take on board to get the most out of the experience.

Plan - keep an eye out for which producers are exhibiting via the GFWS website, and on the day pick up a program that will show you which stand they are located on.
Prioritise - Work out which exhibitors you'd like to see first, some of them bring limited stock and popular wines sell out fast.  Some exhibitors have the odd bottle of something special - a brand new release or a premium label - that it might pay to get in early to taste and buy!

Eat something - Seriously, it pays to have a good breakfast inside you to start the day well, and ensure you take a lunch break - pick up something from one of the exhibitors.

Comfort – You’ll be on your feet for a while, wear something comfortable.

Courtesy – Be considerate of those around you, no barging or jostling – there’s normally plenty to go around and everyone will get a pour.

Enjoy – most importantly - it’s a great day out and you’ll get to meet some great producers with fascinating stories and wines.  Take a bottle or two home to remember your day by, and if there’s something that really took your eye, buy a case – most of the exhibitors will be able to take orders and send on cases to you at home so you don’t need to carry it.

Be great to hear your top tips for enjoying the show, add them to the comments below.

The Competition that ran to win tickets to the Melbourne GFWS is now closed and the winner has been notified.

Thursday 26 April 2012

A.Retief The Cabernets 2009

I initially preferred this wine to the 2008.  On opening the aromatics were much more pronounced, I thought this the wine with the higher percentage of Petit Verdot.  

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (85%) sourced from Gundagai, along with Petit Verdot (10%) and Malbec (5%) from Hilltops.  Aromatically very pronounced on opening; bright, perky, even perty, lifted aromatics coming out of the glass - floral - wild flowers wafting, inviting.  

Smooth on entry, a foundation of oak and tobacco; a resurgent fruit/ floral combination towards the conclusion.  This gives the wine the effect of a secondary movement before good structured tannin provides length, good lingering length.  Very drinkable, you find yourself going back for more.  Fades over a day, one for now.  90 - Good

Source: Sample
Price: $28
Alcohol: 13%
Closure: Screwcap

A.Retief Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot Malbec 2008

The shy older brother compared to the 2009.  It needed a full day in a decanter for the aromatics to sing - and day two saw a wine much more expressive, perfumed, floral than it first appeared on opening. 

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Petit Verdot (30%) and Malbec (10%) - a good 'Bordeaux' blend, blends no doubt familiar to the winemaker from time spent with Chateau Lagarde.  In the mouth it's medium bodied, well balanced - with grainy mouth-coating tannin creeping up on you.  Smoky and cedary, some requisite Cabernet leaf and tobacco character alluding to the 60% Cabernet Sauvignon.  

The tannin provides length, berry elements bring themselves into the equation too, and a fair length it is: some 30-60 seconds of cedary, leafy, tobacco notes staying in the mouth.  The Cabernet and Malbec working in unison to create this effect; smooth, powerful, flow - balance and drive.  Just give it some time.  92 - Very Good.
Source: Sample
Price: $28

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Vincent Paris Granit 30 Cornas 2009

With Cornas it was love at first sight.  The most southerly of the the main appellations in the Northern Rhone, often the earliest to ripen and pick due to the natural amphitheatre that traps in warmth and protects from the cool Mistral winds.

Old leather, wild herbs, meaty (raw beef) aromas, further supported by black pepper.  To add extra contrast, delicate florals too, and with some time in glass, dark fruit elements step forward.  Firmer and more rustic than many may be used to, breadth and length - complex, brilliant.

Pepper in the mouth, good acid, the acid seems to provide this secondary movement in the mouth.  Layered and minerally.  Tannin giving exquisite structure.  The wine giving the impression of pulsing, thrusting, flavour coursing through the mouth.  Those words again: Complex, brilliant.  
95 - Outstanding.

Source: Retail, Ultimo Wine Centre
Price: $60-65
Alcohol: 13%
Closure: Cork

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Monday 23 April 2012

Triple Shot: Hunter Valley 2010 Chardonnay

Hunter Valley Chardonnay is a bit of an unknown for me, so what better way to learn than to have a look at a few, side-by-side?  When I think of the Hunter I immediately think of Semillon and Shiraz, in whites and reds respectively.  So maybe the variety has some way to go if someone with my elevated levels of thirst wouldn't necessarily associate the region and variety together.  

Drayton's Family Vineyard Reserve 2010
Barrel Ferment character immediately apparent, toasty peach and grapefruit in support.  In the mouth the wine is textural, with stonefruit and citrus further in the mix - a hint of lemon sherbet for a little extra excitement.  Fair spike of acid on the finish, sticks out a little like a sore thumb at this current juncture.  Ticks the right boxes, plenty of interest - over time the fruit is drawn out a little more, with the lemon sherbet more pronounced.  90+ - Good.

Price: $?
Closure: Screwcap

Margan Limited Release White Label 2010
A little austere on approach, faint citrus and almon, a hint of peach - rather clean.  On entry, citrus presents itself - but that word again: clean.  Balanced, but quite tight and closed, lacking somewhat in true Chardonnay character for me.  Finishes with some mineral and stonefruit, and the finish shows length.  Too closed to reveal anything.  Would love to see where it goes.  87/88+ - Good.

Price: $30
Alcohol: 13%
Closure: Screwcap

Tower Estate Chardonnay 2010
Better.  Clean again on approach, with pronounced citrus profile.  Suggestion of barrel ferment employed.  Gentle, rounded, texural in the mouth.  A hint of mineral, toasty feel to things, nougat oak - expensive oak.  Rich, yet reserved.  Finish is moderate.  Quality is there, but again it's a little subdued at this stage.  A step up, but keen to see how it would develop.  91+ - Very Good 

Price: $30
Alcohol: 13%
Closure: Screwcap

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Saturday 21 April 2012

Thorn-Clarke Quartage 2008

Inky black in colour providing an indication of what to expect with the mass of black fruit that presents itself.  A fantastic exercise in blending, this wine is a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon (52%), Malbec (24%), Cabernet Franc (18%), Petit Verdot (3%) and Merlot (3%).  General black fruits, leafy Cabernet, some tapenade in the mix too.

Medium-full bodied, the black fruits flow nicely through to the palate, good balance, yet it is the tannic grip that captivates.  A grippy, raspiness to the profile that makes the finish and will likely set the wine up for a good future ahead.  Equally drinking well now, the tannin a good match to rich meaty dishes, such as a good hearty casserole as the cooler months approach.  91 - Very Good

Source: GFWS
Price: $20
Alcohol: 14%
Closure: Screwcap

Thursday 19 April 2012

Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet 2010

From one of the few French ACs that is varietally named.  The Picpoul-de-Pinet appelation of the Couteaux de Languedoc in France's South-West has experienced a resurgence of late thanks to a new breed of producers and stunners like this.

Picpoul, or Piquepoul, means 'lip-stinger' on account of the acidity of its must.  The variety is not - as yet - grown in Australia, the Granite Belt's Symphony Hill did have some planted but have grubbed it up - retaining the source material.

A delightful pale green-gold, on the nose there's hints of bruised apple, a touch of lemon - but it's not necessarily about the aroma.  Taking the wine into the mouth, your mouth becomes alive - the tingle of acid immediately apparent; palate weight and texture add further interest.  The zesty, fresh full on acid is simply brilliant.

Bone dry on the finish, it stays with you a long time - if you can refrain from taking another sip.  It just keeps hauling you back in for more.  Would pair excellently with Oysters and oily fish eg Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines.  Brisbaneites can find this at Grand Central Cellars and at Spring Brisbane92 - Very Good

Price: $23
Alcohol: 12.5%
Closure: Screwcap

Monday 16 April 2012

Yalumba Y Series Vermentino 2011

A variety you're going to increasingly see a lot of - and that's not a bad thing if the examples I have seen are anything to go by.  

Fresh, lemony aromatic profile with an extra dimension redolent of fresh white bread.  In the mouth there's zing and zest, some elements from the tropical fruit spectrum weave their way way around along with a textural edge, washed pebble.

Not a great deal length to the wine, the texture compensating with sufficient interest, where it does excel is in offering fantastic refreshment at an excellent price point - would work perfectly with a large plate of Whitebait.  89 - Good.

Source: Tasting
Price: $12-15
Alcohol: 11.5%
Closure: Screwcap

Sunday 15 April 2012

Waywood Wines Quattro Vini 2010

A blend of Nebbiolo (35%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%), Sangiovese (25%) and Shiraz (10%).  You can see how the blend works.  In the accompanying notes, the winemaker - Andrew Wood - explains hoe the blend is one tool of the winemaker in trying to achieve an idea, in this case something along the lines of a bistro wine, a great drinker - perfect with friends and food.

Sultry, dark fruited mix of plum, blackcurrant and black cherry with lovely smoky, savoury, smallgood elements thrown in too.  Juicy, fresh acidity adding one aspect in the mouth, supported by a sidekick of tannin - real tannin, chewy, grippy.  

Further, there's this tomato sauce element coursing though the palate, the acid wave carrying it through.  Damn juicy and drinkable.  91 - Very Good

Source: Sample
Price: $27/ $160 per 6
Alcohol: 14.5%
Closure: Screwcap

Friday 13 April 2012

Waywood Wines Cabernet Franc 2009

"Generally the bridesmaid, never the bride" or so winemaker and proprietor Andrew Wood has placed on the  label for this varietal Cabernet Franc.  One of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is earlier ripening than its better known parent, and in Bordeaux it is used to add perfume and smoothness to tame what can be aggressive Cabernet tannin. 

Exhibiting the hallmarks of good Cabernet Franc: the beautiful, heady perfume, lifted aromatics of leafy blackcurrant, a hint of raspberry, latent peppermint in the background.  It's a perfume that really reaches into the olfactory organ.  Deliciously appetising, in the mouth it is light, smooth with extremely fine grained tannin, working in conjunction with generous acid to create a memory of what came before.  93 - Very Good

Source: Sample
Price: $27/ $160 per 6 pack
Alcohol: 14%
Closure: Screwcap

A.Retief Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2011

There are some women you come across, elfin, delicate, fragile individuals that give you the impression they'll break at the merest suggestion of contact, yet they have this irresistible charm - this allure, this intoxicating, seductive quality that just reels you in.  This wine is like that.

Delicate citrus aromatics with a honeyed note; a coiled, tight, clenched fist of a wine in the mouth, revealing an almond, nutty element on entry, some Chablis-like oyster shell moving toward the spine of acid.  For a wine that was fermented in 100% new French oak - you wouldn't know it, malo has imparted a gentle creaminess on the finish.  Length, balance, fragility...subtle intensity.  Would love to see how it evolves.  92+ - Very Good

Source: Sample
Price: $45
Alcohol: 13%
Closure: Screwcap

Thursday 12 April 2012

Hunter Valley Valley New Generation

New Generation Hunter Valley
The New Generation Hunter Valley crew are hitting the road again for a one month  trip around the Eastern states.  Starting in Melbourne on 19th April, this motley crew - the self-titled “Not Your Usual Suspects Winemakers" – are bringing their unique style and sense of fun to you.

Laughs and jokes aside, do not underestimate the quality of wines that these six gents produce.  

Representing a new breed of producers in Australia’s oldest wine region, this group of friends are blessed to work with some of the oldest and most distinguished vineyard sites in Australia.  To that, they add their own fingerprint, employing contemporary methods to produce wines reflective of place and their own personalities.
How to Get Involved?
Brisbane-ites will be able to partake in the NewGen’s Pop-up bar, the exact location is a secret and will be emailed to ticket holders one week before the event:

WHEN: Thursday 17 May TIME: 6pm - 9pm
WHERE: Secret inner-Brisbane location (you'll be sent the venue details one week prior))
TICKETS: $30 - get them HERE
What to Expect?
I’ve had the good fortune to try wines from most of the producers featured, including in 2011 when the Caravan of Courage first rolled into town. 

By and large they specialise, and excel in, what the Hunter does best: Semillon and Shiraz.  If you haven't tried young or aged Hunter Semillon, you're in for a treat.  Considered by many to be Australia's gift to the world of wine, producers such as Meerea Park and Thomas Wines hold back wines so that customers to get to appreciate the benefit of ageing for this variety.  

Others like Mike De Iuliis and the Eather brothers of Meerea Park are exploring techniques such as whole bunch fermentation to give the wines structure, large format oak to explore the benefits that brings to typically earthy wines.  Margan and Hook are pushing the envelope with new emerging varieties like Barbera, a deliciously juicy higher-acid grape variety of Italian origin that works well with rich, saucy foods.  Andrew Thomas has taken the innovation a step further, producing a Semillon with retained residual sugar to create a wine with lovely shape in the mouth, one that can pair nicely with food with a little spice.
So get along on the 17th and explore the wines of this bunch of unusual suspects winemakers.

David Hook | David Hook Wines
Andrew Thomas | Thomas Wines 
Rhys Eather | Meerea Park
Nick Paterson | Mistletoe Wines
Mike De Iuliis | De Iuliis Wines 

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Yelland & Papps Devote Shiraz 2009

From a single vineyard in Greenock, towards the North-East of the Barossa Valley, comes this Shiraz of easy-going drinkability and charm.  The aromatic profile shows a black fruited introduction supported by spicier notes of clove along with muscovado sugar and vanilla.

It's in the mouth where it works a treat.  Smooth, rich and rounded, rather fullsome and voluptuous.  There's not so much definition here compared to the Divine Shiraz.  The finish has an essence like quality, fruit flowing smoothly with spice coating the mouth.  90 - Good

Source: Retail
Price: $32
Alcohol: 14.5%
Closure: Screwcap

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Saturday 7 April 2012

Murray Street Vineyards Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The third red in the current Black Label range (there being a Mataro and Shiraz currently) and a pleasant mix of Eden Valley and Barossa Valley fruit.  Some gentle doh oak on opening - it spends 18 months in a mix of American and French, new and old. There's also some of Cabernet's trademark herby, leafy aromatics; this wine's of good length, some fine raspy tannin carrying a finish with a lick of liquorice.

Smooth and medium-full bodied, fuller-fruited with blackcurrant and mulberry completing the mix.  Improved over a day it was opened, providing an inclination as to short-medium term cellaring opportunity.  Good drinking now too.  90 - Good.

Source: Sample
Price: $25
Closure: Screwcap

Dyson Premium Reserve Clarice Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Pretty low-input winemaking here from Alan Dyson.  Showed better over two days, indicating some cellaring potential.  Varietal leaf, bay and bushy aromatics; sweet blackcurrant/ cassis. Medium bodied, the big downside being the heat and alcohol were rather noticeable.  Enjoyable except for that.  88 - Good

Source: Sample
Price: $22