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Tuesday 31 July 2012

Lofty Valley Chardonnay 2011

From the Adelaide Hills comes a fine Chardonnay, brand hitherto unknown to me prior to this opportunity to taste it.  The winemaker however is: one Brendon Keys.

220 cases produced, all estate fruit, 50% of it aged for 10 months in new French oak. Barrel ferment character whispers its gentle tune in the glass; fresh aromatics by way of melon, stonefruits and the addition of some cashew.   

The palate sees a fuller wine, touch of weight and texture - the suggestion of battonage.  The palate enhanced further by butty/ cashew complexity - rather well worked.

Finishes with good length, and a steely resolve.  91 - Very Good

Source: Sample
Price: $26.50
Alcohol: 13%
Closure: Screwcap

Witches Falls Prophecy Syrah 2008

Representing the best of the best for Mount Tamborine (Gold Coast hinterland) based Witches Falls, this wine is only made is exceptional years.

Bright berry perfume, polished cherry and lashings of toasty new oak.  Blackcurrant; black, inky-fruited depth, spice-tinged, drying tannin that aids and abets length.

Good length, generous length.  Spice and a fruitsome note enhanced by fresh acid.  It's pretty much all prima-quality fruit and oak, you know what you're getting with this wine, and do pay for it accordingly.  92 - Very Good

Source: Gift
Price: $45
Alcohol: 14%
Closure: Screwcap

Monday 30 July 2012

d'Arenberg 100 Years Young

100 Years young.  It seems appropriate, if a little corny.

Young, fresh, energetic, driven, sharp.  Consider the principals of the business: Managing Director d'Arry Osborn, 85 years young and sharp as a tack - not missing a beat, recalling details of vineyards planted, by whom and when with ease.  Chief winemaker Chester Osborn, impish - yet spend time with the man and you get to see this mischievous character as a mask, a facade in front of an individual of extraordinary focus, detail and passion.  Passion - that's a word you'll come find yourself coming back to time and again having spent some time in the man's  company.

I was provided with a not-to-be-missed opportunity to taste through a dazzling range of d'Arenberg wines, back vintages and current releases from the broad portfolio and two newer ranges focussing on site expression (Shiraz) and sub-regionality (Grenache).

The alpha-male, the jock that gets the majority of attention.  For many, Australia's signature variety - McLaren Vale's too for that matter.  Over-worked, abused, maligned, celebrated, championed.  What is Shiraz?  A question that can generate as many answers as 'What is Terroir?'

d'Arenberg's flagship is the Dead Arm.  A wine comprised of fruit contributed from 12 select sites.  Sites that until now were only really known to the d'Arenberg team.  That's all changed with the 'Amazing Sites' initiative.

The opportunity to taste through the 12 wines was not to be turned down. Each was from the 2010 vintage: the Asian spice of the 'Swinging Malaysian 2010'; dense, olive and black character of the J.R.O Afflatus Shiraz; and the initial sweeter Amrathine but latterly showing spice, with firm and raspy tannin.  This is Terroir in action.

Grenache is one of Chester's favourite topics for discussions.  The subject of a possible screenplay.  A grape variety that he appears to spend much time mulling over, a variety that he and d'Arenberg have relentlessly championed (as they have with many other 'lesser' known Rhone varieties). 

From offering unheard of prices per tonne in the late 80's to placing it at the heart of one the winery's flagship wines - the Ironstone Pressings - you see the subject burns fierce with Chester.  

The range of sub-regional Grenache (Blewitt Springs - florals and spice; Beautiful View - depth and earthiness; and McLaren Sand Hills - elegance, bigger and more confronting at this juncture) for me represent the next stage in Grenache's renaissance, and the point at which d'Arenberg pushes its case further at a time when other wineries are beginning to understand and learn how to best work with the variety.

That we tasted d'Arry's Original (Shiraz/ Grenache) at 3, 8 and 10 years of age and the Custodian (Grenache) at 3, 6 and 8 years of age made a mockery of the assertion that Grenache doesn't age well.

What Next?
I think we have seen the future.  Expression, of site and purpose.  Passion.  Passion for the brand, the region and the recognition of a responsibility as a custodian and role model within a leadership group within the region and Australia.

Naturally the question arose about some of d'Arenberg's somewhat unusual wines.  Chester showed no sign of slowing down on the number of releases, alluding to a notebook listing future potential releases.  

Whilst it could be said that some of the previous releases could have had more than a nod toward generating a headline (a raised Gallic eyebrow from a leading Champagne house over d'Arenberg's 'Dadd" NV sparkling; or a schoolboy chuckle over the Fuckeliana botrytis perhaps) you cannot dispute the quality of the wines across the board.  The Amazing Site Shiraz and sub-regional Grenache are firmly quality led, a springboard for to the next level perhaps.

d'Arenberg in Numbers
450 - the number of acres that d'Arenberg owns
430 - the number of blocks of grapes they work with
180 - the number of 5t fermenters they have at their disposal
100 - years since the Osborn founded their winery 
69 - the number of wines produced
29 - number of years Chester Osborn has been Winemaker

As a guest of d'Arenberg I would like to express my sincere thanks for the opportunity to taste through this unique range of wine and for the opportunity to do so with d'Arry and Chester in such an intimate setting. 

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Sunday 29 July 2012

Cypress Post 2000 Frances Viognier Marsanne 2011

Good aromatics, the Viognier (75%) and Marsanne (25%) are both represented: apricot and ginger; spiced and honeyed parsnip. Textural, with nutty complexity.

Spice toward the back end with some phenolic grip. Good length, leaving you with something long after the final sip. Doesn’t show its 14% alcohol and still remarkably carries a touch of acid at that alcohol level. 90 - Good

Source: Gift
Price: $23
Alcohol: 14%
Closure: Screwcap

Saturday 28 July 2012

Un Air de Remejeanne Cotes de Rhone 2010

Hand-picked, sorted and de-stemmed.  Spends eight months in a concrete tank, is not fined (making it Vegan friendly), is lightly filtered, but all up this equals a wine of dashed good fun.

Lovely mix of brambly red fruits - predominantly raspberry.  Slight 'pastilley' aromatic profile, soft and smooth on entry with a whack of pepper and anise.

Look now, there's little by way of complexity, but it has this minerally resolve and the spice aids length.  At this price it is damn good fun, and darn good drinking.  90 - Good

Source: Retail, Grand Central Cellars
Price: $22
Alcohol: 15%
Closure: Cork

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Murray Street Vineyards Semillon 2010

Lemon, lemon-sherbet, floral hints, but in the main: zesty fresh. Creamy lemon curd on the palate, a hint of minerally zing. 

The acid familiar to young Semillon is still present, but is settling into itself.  Fresh, clean and pure – with excellent length. 

Lovely refreshing wine and at 11.5% is perfect for an end of day refresher  ...pottering in the garden perhaps. 92 – Very Good

Source: Purchased at the Good Food and Wine Show
Price: $25
Alcohol: 11.5%
Closure: Screwcap

Friday 27 July 2012

Hand Crafted by Geoff Hardy Lagrein 2009

Lagrein has its home in Italy's North-East, in the fantastic sounding Alto-Adige region.  I think this is a variety we're going to see a lot more of in Australia.  This example shows why.

Aromatically fresh.  A little like chewing a minto, cherry drop and bouquet garni all at once with its lovely cherry fresh, mint and herby profile.

It's an aroma that belies the savoury notes within.  There's a core of earthen notes, blackcurrant accented and all seasoned with pepper.  More-ish, savoury, peppery and great length all add to the intrigue this wine provides.  Top stuff.  91 - Very Good 

Source: Sample
Price: $22
Closure: Screwcap

Thursday 26 July 2012

Mandalay Road Wines Zinfandel 2008

"A Princess.  An alcoholic, potentially jammy Princess, with super-pretty structure, and spice to burn... Bit of a bitch vineyard-wise.  Difficult to ripen without going porty.  Needs care to manage structure, weight" ~ Kate Giles, Byrne Vineyards

Undertaking some research in the twittersphere on Zinfandel in Australia (also known as Primitivo) Kate Giles, of Byrne Vineyards, was generous enough to share her knowledge on the variety.

Mandalay Road is located about 60KMs inland of Bunbury, in a wine-producing region known as Geographe.  The wine itself shows red berry fruit - hints of strawberry, blackcurrant pastille.  It's rustic, savoury showing oak and cedary notes.

Smooth, spice-laden with dry raspy tannin - for a wine at 15%+ it didn't particularly show that level of alcohol.  Savoury, with generous length and a mushroom jus finish.  89 - Good

Source: Sample
Price: $25
Alcohol: 15.2%
Closure: Screwcap

Friday 13 July 2012

Shobbrook Nouveau 2011

Shobbrook 2011 Nouveau Mataro bottle image
I've come across this wine a few times, yet this was the first time I'd sat down with a bottle for the purpose of writing it up.

The first thing to say is don't be alarmed by the spritz on opening, the winemaker has intentionally left some undissolved CO2 in the wine - a little like a soda water - and chosen not to filter the wine, making it vegan friendly, and rendering it with the appearance of something like a barley water.

The best description I have heard for this wine is its: "like a frosty fruit with pepper on it".  Not sure I can necessarily better that.

Beyond the initial spritz the wine is a great mix of sweet and savoury, with Mataro's familiar earthen spice juxtaposed against tart, sharp fruit - think sugar plum and juicy tart citrus.

Fun, lively and eminently drinkable it may be but it also has an edge of complexity to itself too.  Whilst made for drinking now, seeing no oak and no sulphur, along with showing little in the way of tannin, the winemaker has commented that it would be fun to see where the undissolved CO2 would go and what preservative properties it may have.  Just enjoy it say I.  90 - Good

Source: Winery
Price: $21
Alcohol: 13.5%
Closure: Cork with wax seal

Wednesday 11 July 2012

Tscharke Marananga Mataro 2010

'Barossa Grounds' is a series of new releases from Damien Tscharke aimed at showcasing the Barossa's terroir through a range of Single Vineyard wines.

In the case of this Mataro, it is estate fruit from their Stonewell Vineyard in Marananga, grown on its original root stock.

Hand picked, fermented in an open-top fermenter. Post fermentation its sealed to allow further maceration for a further 20 days.  Pressed, left to settle, racked off lees into new and seasoned french oak (puncheons) for secondary fermentation. 

The wine is racked a further 3 times prior to bottling and is unfined and unfiltered. The wine was in oak for 14 months.

Now, what does it taste like? Plum and cherry, blueberry with hints of blackcurrant set against damp, mulchy earthen savoury character.  Varietally true.  Good entry, no hint of its 15% alcohol, perceived lightness - though it is squarely full bodied -  juxtaposed against dark soy and beef jus character.

Dry, glorious grippy tannin - a glimpse of a peak of acid - bringing on the finish.  Fantastic.  93 - Very Good  

Source: Sample
Price: $32
Alcohol: 15%
Closure: Screwcap

Saturday 7 July 2012

Fox Creek Old Vines Shiraz 2010

Stylistically I found this wine making more than the occasional glance backwards to the place where I thought Australian reds were moving away from. It intrigued me to be honest.

The magnificent power of the Old Vine material was clearly shining through, or rather was there to be seen with its depth and power, yet it seemed somewhat overshadowed by a rather confected raspberry jam palate.  Going back to the beginning, it shows good black fruit, tar and earth.  It's rich and ripe, with some perfumed oak bringing it all together.

The length of the wine somewhat overshadowed by the sweet fruited nature.  I think here less would have been more.  When you have such old vine material to work with - and these beauties are centenarian - then respect is due and their inherent power and depth need not necessarily be obscured by layers of sweet nectary fruit.  Still, it holds up well over 2-3 days and so the + mark here is as much to see where that fruit goes with time.  90/91+ - Good/ Very Good

Source: Sample
Price: $50
Alcohol: 14.5%
Closure: Screwcap

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Sparkling Brut 2010

It's generally rather handy to know of an acceptable fizz such as may be required for large gatherings.  This example from Barossa behemoth Wolf Blass incorporates the classic varieties for sparkling: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Hints of lemon curd on approach, flint and a bready/ leesy background.  Some fair persistence with a cut 'n' thrust sherbet attack, I found it quite aggressive and lively in the mouth, not a wine of finesse.  Some creaminess adds a little extra, but it falls some way of a good length.  Decent minerally texture, good aperitif style and at the current direct price of $11 p/b will serve well as mentioned.  87 - Average

Source: Sample
Price: $$17.99 RRP
Alcohol: 11.5%
Closure: Cork

Friday 6 July 2012

Flaxman Wines 'The Drone' GMS 2011

Smooth, juicy and fruity blend (60/21/19) aided and abetted by some depth from the Mataro.  You're introduced by way of a spice flecked red and black fruited mix, raspberry and blackcurrant pastille.  There's a little licorice and earth in the equation, but the pleasure for me here was the lightness and ever-so-moreish qualities in possession.

Over two days the fruit takes a little back-seat, and some lightly dusted cinnamon over citrus peel leads you in.  No particular length to shout about, but i reckon you'll be back in for another sip of this one to not worry about that.  Easy going, all in check, more than a nod to the Rhone as much as Eden Valley.  89 - Good

Source: Sample
Price: $26.99
Alcohol: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap

Sunday 1 July 2012

Mitchell Harris 'Sabre' 2008

Good things come to those who wait.  Given John Harris's background with Domaine Chandon you would expect to see a method sparkling in the Mitchell Harris stable.  

This 2008 vintage wine was hand picked, primarily tank fermented and seeing no malo.  Some 5% of the base saw the wine undergo wild fermentation in a 5 year old hogshead.  The finished wine  spent some 3 years 'sur latte' - stored laying down with the yeast still in bottle - prior to disgorgement in December 2011.

A lovely golden hued wine, lemon curd and brioche aromas with golden linseed elements wafting out of the glass.  A fine mousse, the wine is minerally and toasty.  The finish fine with a length of generous proportions. 93 - Very Good
Source: Sample
Price: $40
Alcohol: 12.5%
Closure: Diam