An Australian Wine Blog

Thursday, 27 June 2013

"It's Just a Drink"

I notched up my 500th post on this site with a review of a rather fine Merlot/ Cabernet Franc from Tapanappa. On that significant milestone I sat, seemingly paralysed; cursed with a respiratory infection that saw me bedridden for a period, unable and unwilling to taste.
 
A comment on that post: "but a 95 for a merlot blend, and the price?" and some discussion in the twittersphere about how "out of touch from the majority of consumers some wine writers are" had me thinking.
 
"It's just a drink". It's something you often hear said about wine. Offered both as a criticism, and in support of, commentary about wine. 
 
And it is. But perhaps tell that to the fifty-two thousand1 employed in the industry and quite possibly - again as both a criticism, and in support - they'll agree with you or possibly launch angrily into how it's their livelihood, the dinner on the table for their families, their opportunity to escape a desk job or the pursuit of a passion they could (ill?) afford to indulge. Or they might agree with you, hand you a glass and urge you to drink up. I don't know, I don't work in the industry so maybe I shouldn't be venturing an opinion on something that I have no first hand knowledge of. Unlike some.
 
What I do know is the industry is recognised as contributing 4.3 billion2 to the Australian economy and $1.85 billion3 in export revenues. Broadly similar in size, value and employment to the Australian automotive sector4. How much support does each industry receive from federal and state governments to prop it up?
 
Much of the criticism about the wine industry, along with its associated commentary is with regards to the 'snobbery'. Yet, for every wanker like me - and I see myself as part of the snooty, pontificating, glass swirling brigade -  there's at least one individual looking to reduce wine to its lowest common denominator, to "demystify wine one glass at a time".

For me, wine's inherent ability to reflect its place, it's seasons, along with the guiding hand of winemaker/ producer/ manufacturer/ excel spreadsheet are what make it such an exciting subject. Clearly an emotive one too. 

There's something about it that makes us prevaricate about it, renders some of us like vinyl junkies, scouring the shelves of favoured retailers for a particular variety/ region/ producer/ vintage. It has the ability to make some of us feel like a kid in a candy store, a few dollars in our pockets and the need to spend it on something, anything. Hours spent perusing shelves, touching the labels hoping for the transfer of something from the label through some osmosis like ability.
 
It has its darker side too, with alcohol abuse estimated to cost Australia $36 billion - though one would struggle to imagine how much of that is from chugging back bottles of fine wine.  

Yes, it is just a drink. But it's also about the people, the land, the shared experiences, the sheds where wine is crafted. Oh, and it's not just about the fine end of the market "and I'll take the high road from factory to factory too" with mass produced, bladder transported products too.
 
My point with this piece? A quick single to move me off a score I've been stuck on for a while? A chance to get something off my chest other than phlegm? I don't consider myself a wine writer, I prefer to reserve that term for those somewhat more professionally engaged in the noble-craft. Call me a blogger, a gentleman amateur, a wanker - as you wish. My blogging stemmed from an enjoyment of wine far beyond its consumption. To that end, I am very far removed from the "majority of consumers". And I am proud of that fact.

References
 
Sources:

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Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Merlot Cabernet Franc 2009

It's testament to the underlying quality here, that the wine was both approachable now, yet also imparted a sense of where it may well be over its life. 

Opens with a plummy mix, supported by an oak framework that provides its longevity. Savoury, cedary with elevated notes being offered by the Cabernet Franc. Malty, chocolate oak adds to the mix, the aromatics swirling, layered and inviting.

The palate yields dense, chewy tannin; spicy black olive tapenade is in the frame too. Fruit is a consistent theme throughout, threading its way around an inherently spicy core. The finish is long, savoury with fine tannin. Black and dense. One for the long haul. 94 - Outstanding

Tasted on: Sunday 9th June, a Root Day
Source: Sample
Price: $75
Alcohol:13.8%
Closure: Cork
Website: http://www.tapanappawines.com.au

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Alkoomi Jarrah Shiraz 2009

Built to last. Unlike many things these days.

Smooth, structured and has this lovely undercurrent of flavour, a citrus/ sour/ tang with good acid pitch. But balanced. Poised, that's possible a better way of putting it.

Opens with a rich, chocolatey, oak driven aroma in the mix with good red fruits adding to the overall package. The tang forms the finish, slowly fading. Quite delightful. 92 - Very Good

Tasted on: Friday 7th June, a Fruit Day
Source: Sample
Price: $39
Alcohol: 14.1%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://alkoomiwines.com.au

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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2009

Opens with pine nuts and hints of corn. Whole bunch pressed, seeing 10-12 months in second use oak. Palate shows lime brulee, quite a full and creamy feel to it. 

Mineral line through its core and finishes with a flourish of acid and mineral. 89 - Good

Tasted on: Friday 7th June, a Fruit day
Source: Gift
Price: $38
Alcohol: 12.5%
Closure: DIAM
Website: http://www.oceaneight.com.au/

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The Lane Vineyard Block 14 Shiraz 2012

I was thoroughly enthralled by this wine.

The aromatics: alluring; the palate a dark, inky mass built around this graphite streak; finishing fine. Three separate parts, each offering something different, on their own quite brilliant, together something else. 

Whole berry fermentation gives the wine its aromatic intro. Red berries, satsuma plums, peppery hints - but quite delicate. In the mouth, it's meaty, supported by an acidic tang with a graphite minerality that is all too rare in many wines.

The finish is a little bitter, the conclusion to a savoury tail of flavour. It gives, gives, gives. Fantastic wine. 94 - Outstanding

Tasted on: Thursday 6th June, a Fruit Day
Source: Sample
Price: $39
Alcohol: 13.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.thelane.com.au/

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Monday, 10 June 2013

Coombe Farm Chardonnay 2012

Chardonnay from the Yara Valley that uses a 60/40 split of the Mendoza clone - often said to lack a little on the back palate - and the P58 clone, favoured amongst some of the Yarra Chardonnay-heads.

Three batches of fruit were all vinified separately, different yeasts were also engaged, only 20% allowed to go through Malo. Oak, is French barriques, 20% of which is new.

Opens with a mix of florals, stonefruit, citrus and even a touch of fenugreek. The palate is full, creamy - unsure of the battonage regime - with good acid to cut through the back end. Shows nice balance, good drinking, has a moreish quality to it. Reels you back in.

That said, length is a little average, flavour is pulled through, medium acidity. Good wine. 90 - Good

Tasted on: Tuesday 4th June, a Leaf Day
Source: Sample
Price: $32
Alcohol: 12.5%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.coombefarm.com.au

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Chapel Hill Chardonnay 2012

2011 Bottle Image
"The final evolution in our unwooded Chardonnay" came appended to the bottle. The 2011 was the first vintage of the Chapel Hill Foundation Chardonnay that I had tasted, it was the 21st year of production, and it was also the first time in which a small component of the wine saw a little time in barrel.

So, to 2012, forward with lemon creme on approach; grapefruit hints - both aromatically and also by way of acidity - creamy with sufficient drive form the acidity to meander its way around that. 

Average length of flavour, yet considering the price point I would have to consider that it over delivers. A view in common with that 2011 example. Touch and go for a point higher: 87 - Average

Tasted on: Tuesday 4th June, a Leaf Day
Source: Sample
Price: $16
Alcohol: 13%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.chapelhillwine.com.au

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Michael Hall Eden Valley Syrah 2010

From the Naimanya vineyard perched at 520 metres in the Eden Valley. Was picked on the 1st April, de-stemmed,wild yeast ferented and spent 22 days on skins.

Opens initially to a smokey-toasty citrus infused profile. Backed up with blue fruits. Quite a pretty intro. Palate shows complexity, seemingly at odds to that aromatic profile - an interesting juxtaposition. Red and black fruits, a citrus tang built around a mineral core.

It is that minerality that forms the backbone of the wine, a fine length passing - and lasting - long on the palate, a flourish of tannin holding you. Simply captivating, offering something else at every turn. 94 - Excellent 

Tasted on: Saturday 1st June, a Flower Day
Source: Retail, Grand Central Cellars
Price: $40 RRP
Alcohol: 14.5%
Closure: DIAM
Website: http://www.michaelhallwines.com/

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Saturday, 8 June 2013

Pertaringa Undercover Shiraz 2011

The Undercover, so named as McLaren Vale Shiraz was often a key component of
celebrated wines in Australia's history. These days it gets slightly more celebrated billing - but this is Pertaringa's nod to those times when it was less so.

Initially shows the aromatic signature consistent with a cooler, wetter vintage - git it a little time and air and it opens revealing a fairly dense tapestry of rich chocolate, plummy notes, dark berry compote: essence of McLaren Vale perhaps. Be patient, wait a little longer and there's some furtive sandalwood and minty character wafting through.

Entry is spicy, toasty oak is fairly prominent and provides gloss and sheen, tarts things up a little with slippery silken feel. Tannin is very fine, flowing to a finish of chocolate and berry fruits, a cascade of velvety teture. 90 - Good

Tasted on: Saturday 1st June, a Flower Day
Source: Sample
Price: $22
Alcohol:
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.pertaringa.com.au

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[Edited at 18:41 on Sunday 9th June 2013 to reflect that this is the 2011 vintage and not the 2010]

Taylors Estate Shiraz 2012

Initially quite muted, opens up sufficiently to reveal hints of fruit, a little floral lift and a touch of Marzipan. Entry is smooth, fairly glossy and a little oak showing itself. Well constructed wine, does well at its price point.

Pleasurable mouthfeel, a little blackcurrant pastille and gentle acid. Length is moderate, nicely textured. Shop around and you can find this below full tote. 89 - Good

Tasted on: Monday 27th May, a Fruit Day
Source: Sample
Price: $18.95
Alcohol: 14%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.taylorswines.com.au

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Taylors Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Some parcels see an extended period on skins of two weeks, overall spends 12 months in barrel, oak is French of which 5% is new.

Mix of aromas here, with red and black fruits, touches of choc-mint patty, choco-maltiness and a touch of fresh rolling baccy early on.

Tannin is fine, oddly picked up a little strawberry here, hint of chocolate too. Seems a little flat in its flavour profile. Finish shows good persistence, picking up the palate. Doesn't pull together quite as cohesively as some of the individual parts would allude too. 88 - Good

Tasted on:Sunday 26th May, a Leaf Day
Source: Sample
Price: $18.95
Alcohol: 13.8%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.taylorswines.com.au

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Thursday, 6 June 2013

Mount Langhi Ghiran Cliff Edge Shiraz 2009

The 2009 was sourced exclusively from estate fruit grown on the western slopes at Mount Langi Ghiran. Whole bunch inclusion formed a significant portion of the wine's make-up, as it has in subsequent vintages.

Interesting, alluring aromatic mix with plum and violets, a little smoky/ meaty note that afronts some sweeter cherry bakewell notes. To add to the picture are hazelnut and almond.

It's exquisitely smooth, nigh effortless to drink. Excellent balance of acid, peppery flecks and ultra-fine tannin. The wine's layered quality cascades the flavours and then reels you back in for another go. It has that rare quality of at once seeming simple and complex, unsure whether to sip or savour.

The finish is long, detailed, layered and fine. Composure and balance are two of its watchwords. At its conclusion there is a contrast between savoury nuances and the fruit, the two in tandem creating a compelling drinking proposition. 94 - Excellent

Tasted on: Thursday 30th May, a Root Day
Source: Gift
Price: $23 if you shop wisely
Alcohol: 14%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://www.langi.com.au/

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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Symphonia Pinot Grigio 2012

The Symphonia vineyard near Myrrhee in Victoria's King Valley was first planted in 1981. The fruit for this PG has been previously taken by De Bortoli, now Symphonia are looking to forge ahead with wines under their own label and name.

This is a slightly different Pinot Grigio from many that you may encounter on the market. Has the aromatic profile of the variety, courtesy of a little green apple and melon character. However it’s actually on the palate where things take a little detour.

A few winemakers’ tricks have imparted textural quality on the wine, that is, enhanced mouthfeel. Acidity is nicely pitched, and finishes with a little briny tang. Good intensity too. Well worth seeking out. 90 - Good

Source: Sample
Price: $ 20
Alcohol: TBA
Closure: Screwcap
Website: In Production

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S.C.Pannell Tinto 2010

Stephen Pannell was quite possibly born to make wine. The son of Moss Wood founder Bill Pannell, Stephen has worked at the likes of Wirra Wirra and Hardys. He now calls McLaren Vale home, and was honoured by his peers with the title of 'Bushing King' (an award for the best wine at the McLaren Vale Regional Wine Show) in 2011.

This wine, a blend of Grenache, Mataro, Shiraz and Touriga Nacional, strikes a lovely between the fruity nature of Grenache against its darker, spicier edge. There are raspberry and floral notes alongside a hint of mocha and hazelnut biscotti.

Ultra fine tannin that settles itself away over a day – if you can keep your hands off of it – it’s squarely medium bodied. It’s a wine of many parts, each adding up and contributing to the wine’s overall quality. The finish is easy going and drying, a wine you could quite happily slug back and contemplate in equal measure. 90 –Good

Source: Retail, Grand Central Cellars
Price: $22
Alcohol: 14%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: www.pannell.com.au

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Monday, 3 June 2013

Toolangi Estate Chardonnay 2010

Toolangi Vineyards is owned by Gary and Julie Hounsell, located in the (unofficial) Yarra sub-region of Dixon's Creek, the Hounsell's approach is to grow the best fruit possible, and then to allow wines to be made per their designs by some of Victoria's leading winemakers. This example was made by Oakride Chief Winemaker, David Bicknell.

An open, honest Chardonnay you just want to embrace and enjoy its many parts – and they are manyfold. Opens with stonefruit, a little background citrus and sensibly handled toasty oak.

That oak comes from 10 months in large format wod - this case, 500L puncheons - of which only 25% was new. It doesn't go through malolactic fermentation, an important consideration in understanding the structure.

The palate shows another facet: opening with a flinty note, segueing to a lithe, supple middle – fluid, racy. Shows a touch of butterscotch for further interest, plenty going on – without being overbearing. Good length to boot, staying power – holding interest long after the glass is gone. 93 - Very Good

Source: Sample
Price: $40
Alcohol: 13% 
Closure: Screwcap
Website: www.toolangi.com

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Saturday, 1 June 2013

Brash Higgins NDV Nero d'Avola 2011

Artists find inspiration from many sources. The source of inspiration for this Nero d'Avola from McLaren Vale is some 15,000 kilometres away in Sicily, the home of this grape variety and the home of COS wines. COS ferment their top tier wines in 400L clay amphorae sunk into the ground, and it is this production technique that Brad Hickey of Brash Higgins chose to adopt for this local homage.

Hickey grafted over the Nero onto some Shiraz root stock back in 2009. The variety is pretty hardy, drought-resistant, a good suit for the Mediterranean climes of McLaren Vale.

Drought resistant. Except that the start of vintage in 2011 was at the tail of Australia's wettest July - December (2010) on record. Overlook that fact. Look at the beauty within.

Spending seven months on skins across 6 200L wax-lined clay amphorae. The result is so expressive, so pretty. Even a short time in glass sees a marked evolution in the wine's aromatic profile. Initially spicy, hints of dark gingerbread waft out of the glass. Moving to florals, opening up to cherry, dried herb and lavender. Beautiful. Quite possibly like nothing else.

In the mouth an unbelievable lightness. You might just say medium-bodied. Has a delicacy to it, yet it's assured. There's a little tannic texture, some aniseed, a twist of pepper, sour cherry and acidic tang. Light, bright and long is how it finishes. So fresh, just love the way it morphs. A shapeshifter. Consume and prepare to be consumed. 93 - Very Good 

Tasted on: Tuesday 28th May, a Fruit Day
Source: Retail, Grand Central Cellars
Price: $37
Alcohol: 13%
Closure: Screwcap
Website: http://brashhiggins.com

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