Posts Tagged ‘Australia’
“Here. Try this,” says the wine advisor as he hands me a glass filled with an opaque, deep purple wine. It’s his response to my asking whether he’d tasted anything interesting lately.
“This” has a heady, effusive nose of black and red fruit and toasted coconut. Vigorous swirling brings out spice and dark mineral notes. The first sip reveals it’s full-bodied to the max, a velvety mass of fruit saved from bombdom by the wine’s dryness and a subset of savoury slate and tar flavours. Acidity is notable only because it isn’t and while tannins are present, they’re so round and compliant you can’t honestly say they structure the wine. If anything does, it’s the glyceriny wave of alcohol that buoys and carries the fruit from entry to exit. An underground stream of sweet vanilla oak surfaces on the long, vaporous finish.
“Obviously a warm-climate, sun-soaked wine,” I advance. “Lots of oak.” The wine advisor nods encouragingly. “The dryness and savour put me in mind of the Old World, though if so, from a place where international grape varieties are added to the traditional mix and oak is viewed as a desirable flavour…” I’m grasping at straws. “A newfangled Spaniard like you sometimes get in Castilla-La Mancha?”
The advisor takes pity on me and reveals the bottle.
Yarra Valley 2013, Pépé le Pinot, Jamsheed Wines ($39.30, private import, 6 bottles/case)
The winery has two lines: the eponymous premium line and the more affordable Harem Series. Price notwithstanding, this is part of the latter. 100% organically farmed Pinot Noir sourced, in 2013, from the Penbro Vineyard in the Yea Valley district. 45% of the grapes were macerated and fermented (with indigenous yeasts) as whole clusters, the rest as whole berries. Given three days’ cold soak and minimal punching down. Spent 30 days on the skins and eight months on the lees in old French oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. Screwcapped. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Rézin.
Wafting, warm-climate nose, the red cherry and berries lifted by spice, grounded by earth and darkened by gamy notes. In the mouth, it’s a supple, savoury middleweight. The fruit is ripe but not heavy, thanks in large part to the refreshing acidity. Background minerals and old wood provide some flavour depth while airframe tannins bestow a modicum of grip, most apparent on the finish. Lightly chilled, this would go well with grilled tuna or cedar-planked salmon. (Buy again? Irrespective of price, yes. But 40 bucks is awfully steep for an easy-drinking Pinot.)
The idea for a flight comparing dry Rieslings from Germany and Australia came from a couple of recent Gazette articles (here and here) by wine critic Bill Zacharkiw, who says he plans to devote a good number of column inches in 2014 to promoting this underappreciated grape variety. All four wines were highly recommended, and rightly so (though in our case the Leitz was done no favours by being served last).
Riesling 2009, Eden Valley, B3 Wines ($24.55, 11034935)
B3 is shorthand for the three brothers Basedow who own and run the estate. This 100% Riesling sees only stainless steel. Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV.
Textbook nose of lime, green apple, white flowers, chalk, slate and petrol. Smooth and muted at first but gaining complexity. Quite dry and very present. The clean, bright fruit glows against a slatey backdrop while the acidity and minerals are intense enough to produce a faint burning sensation on the finish. The sulphurous note would have dissipated if I’d carafed the wine a half hour. (Buy again? Sure.)
Riesling 2012, QbA Rheinhessen, Trocken, Weingut Keller ($25.30, 10558446)
100% Riesling. Fermented at low temperatures and with indigenous yeasts. 12% ABV.
Lime, green pear and flowers on the nose – the fruit lightly candied, even a bit caricatural – along with an unexpected grassy note. Lighter and more rainwatery on the palate than the others and a little less dry, the better to balance the sharp acidity. The fruit takes a backseat to the crystalline minerality. A jalapeño note adds intrigue to the finish. And it’s all lifted by a faint carbon dioxide tingle. Focused, balanced and, as Zacharkiw says, fun. (Buy again? Yes, despite the high price for an entry-level wine.)
Riesling 2012 Springvale, Clare Valley, Grosset Wines ($38.25, 11625081)
100% organically farmed Riesling. Manually harvested. Sees no oak. Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV.
Deep if restrained nose: dried lime, yellow apple, chalk and meadow. The richest, weightiest and steeliest of the four. Bone dry too. The fruit is tightly wound around a talc-like mineral core. The acidity gives great cut. A saline note adds tang to the impressively sustained finish. There’s at least a decade’s worth of ageing potential here. Would make an interesting ringer in a flight of Alsatian grand cru Rieslings. (Buy again? Indeed.)
Riesling 2012, QbA Rüdesheimer, Leitz Weingut ($20.25, 11688402)
100% Riesling. Fermented with selected yeasts and matured in stainless steel tanks. Screwcapped. 12% ABV.
Sweet and sour lemon/lime, green apple and a hint of spicy peach. Relatively simple but appealingly fresh. Full of acidity but not sharp. The fruit is light and pure, the minerals tend to chalk, the finish is clean and long. In the vin plaisir category. (Buy again? Sure.)
Other than the wines themselves and seeing that Australia could easily hold its own, what was most striking about this flight was the lack of excitement it generated around the table. The tasters – who as a group are receptive to white wines and new experiences – were generally unenthusiastic. It’s not that they disliked the wines or couldn’t recognize their high quality. It’s that the wines didn’t push their buttons. Why that’s the case isn’t obvious to me, a Riesling lover from birth, but it would be interesting to know the answer.
Syrah 2009, Syrocco, Domaine des Ouleb Thaleb ($20.60, 11375561)
A joint venture between Crozes-Hermitage-based winemaker Alain Graillot and Morocco’s largest wine producer, Thalvin. This 100% young-vine Syrah is made with grapes grown mainly in vineyards near the winery, which is located between Rabat and Casablanca and about 40 km inland from Morocco’s Atlantic coast. The vineyards are manually weeded and ploughed and no herbicides and fungicides are used. In 2009, the grapes were fully destemmed and fermented in closed concrete vats with daily pump-overs. Total maceration time was ten days. The wine then spent seven and a half months in tanks followed by seven and half months in French oak barrels (50% new, 50% second vintage). Lightly filtered before bottling. 13.5% ABV.
Rich, berries, smoke, sweat, hint of animale, eventually cola. Velvety and liqueur-ish, the ripe almost sweet fruit saved from bombdom by the tonic acidity, soft if puckery tannins and savoury edge. Slow-fade finish. Not as pure, complex or deep as Graillot’s Rhône Syrahs but enjoyable in its own right. The best wine from this project to date. (Buy again? Sure.)
Syrah 2010, No. 2, Central Victoria, Graillot Australia ($41.50, 11844815)
A joint venture between Alain Graillot and Bidbendum’s Robert Walters. Two cuvées are made – this second wine and the flagship Graillot Syrah – and 2010 was the first vintage of each. Both are 100% Syrah from organically farmed (though not certified as such) ten-year-old vines. The winemaking is identical for both cuvées: mostly destemmed but about 10% whole bunches; fermented in small open tanks with native yeasts; aged in a mix of old and new oak barrels. The batches for the cuvées are selected on a barrel by barrel basis and, as it turned out, in 2010 the oakiest batches went into the second wine (still only about 10% new oak). Screwcapped. 13% ABV.
“Wet rubber-clad dog” was one taster’s description of the initially dominant smell (probably related to screwed-up screwcapping). I also got plum, bacon, pepper and tomato sauce. Rich, dense and intense but still more Syrah- than Shiraz-like. The ripe fruit is structured with round tannins and welcome acidity. A minerally substrate grounds and deepens the wine. Long finish with faint chocolate notes. Ready to go. (Buy again? Not at the current asking price.)
Syrah 2009, Le Pousseur, Central Coast, Bonny Doon ($26.80, 10961016)
100% Syrah made from purchased grapes grown in three Central Coast vineyards. Each vineyard’s production is manually harvested and fermented separately. Indigenous yeasts. Maturation in French oak barrels. Both tartaric acid and sulphur dioxide are added. Screwcapped. 13.5% ABV.
Rich and savoury nose: red meat, leather, dusty minerals, plum, background oak and a whiff of alcohol. Plush yet fluid. Full of ripe fruit but not a bomb. Fine tannins and juicy acidity. It all adds up to a vin plaisir, albeit a slightly pricey one. (Buy again? Maybe.)
Syrah 2009, Les Côtes de l’Ouest, California, Terre Rouge ($23.20, 00897124)
98% Syrah, about 60% coming from a Sierra foothills vineyard and the rest from various mountain sites, and 2% Viognier. The grapes were lightly crushed, co-fermented in large tanks with regular pump-overs. Matured 17 months in French oak barrels (20% new). 14.5% ABV.
Herbs, earth, blackberry liqueur with a red meat note. Pure and, despite the high alcohol, balanced. There’s a certain depth of flavour (though not of structure), a vein of slatey minerals and a clean, lightly astringent finish. The most Rhône-ish of the bunch. If this were under $20, it’d be a certifiable QPR winner. (Buy again? Sure.)
Except for the Crozes, all the wines in this flight came from the May 10th Cellier release.
Crozes-Hermitage 2010, Domaine Combier ($30.75, 11154890)
100% organically farmed Syrah from three vineyards. Destemmed and fermented for 25 days in temperature-contolled stainless steel tanks with pumping over in the morning and evening. Matured 12 months in recent vintage oak barrels.
Leafy red berries with floral, menthol and animale notes. Bright and juicy but far from being a fruit bomb. Fluid texture, tingly tannins, background spice and oak. Long, clean finish. Pure and, at 12.5% ABV, digeste (“While the literal translation of digeste would be ‘digestible,’ in this case it implies that a wine has an ‘airy’ quality to it, that it’s built along freshness, lightness.” –Bill Zacharkiw). I could drink this every week. (Buy again? For sure.)
Shiraz 2010, The Riebke, Barossa Valley, Teusner Wines ($26.00, 11621081)
100% old-vine Shiraz. After fermentation, the wine is matured 12 months in used French and American oak hogsheads.
Sweet plum, blackberry and dark spice (licorice?). The decent acidity, chewy tannins and dollop of oak notwithstanding, this wine is all about fruit: pure and supple but also very sweet (6.6 g/l of residual sugar) and over-concentrated. Plush texture and fair length with some high-toned kirsch chiming in on the finish (the 14.5% ABV speaking?). One-note and unrefreshing. That said, what it does, it does well. You either like the style or you don’t. I don’t. (Buy again? No.)
Syrah 2007, Terrunyo, Valle del Cachapoal, Concha y Toro ($30.25, 11625680)
88% Syrah, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. Spent 15 months in French oak barrels (60% new, 40% second or third vintage). 14% ABV.
Earthy nose showing some red and black fruit (“high-bush cranberry” according to a New Brunswick native), smoke and an odd peanut brittle note. Rich, dense, structured, layered and very dry. The ripe fruit is only one in a complex of savoury flavours. The oak is kept in check. Charry, leathery finish. A passably interesting wine, though probably not one I’d identify as a Syrah in a double-blind tasting. (Buy again? Doubtful.)
Shiraz 2007, Heathcote, Greenstone Vineyard ($33.50, 11601768)
100% Shiraz from the Mornington Peninsula. Fermentation followed by two weeks’ maceration with occasional punching-down and 20 months’ maturation in 20% new French barriques.
Smoky plum, volatile herbs and slate waft from the glass. Richly flavoured, the fruit joined by mineral, wood, spice and maybe even violet. Supple, almost lean texture. Structured by fine tannins, enlivened by just enough acidity. Lingering finish. All that and 13.5% ABV, too. The most elegant Shiraz I’ve encountered. (Buy again? Quite possibly.)
Aconcagua 2010, Signos de Origen, Casablanca Valley, Emiliana Organic Vineyards ($22.25, 11639037)
A blend of organically farmed Chardonnay (65%), Viognier (20%), Marsanne (11%) and Roussanne (4%) aged in French oak barrels for 10 months.
Mango and pineapple custard. Clean, sweet fruit with a round-bordering-on-heavy texture only partly relieved by the underlying acidity. Long but not hot, despite the high alcohol (14.9%). Not much else going on. Unobjectionable but a bit blowsy and cloying. (Buy again? No.)
Chardonnay 2008, Red Claw, Mornington Peninsula, Yabby Lake ($35.25, 11640492)
Whole bunch-pressed Chardonnay fermented in French oak and aged on its lees for ten months. Mornington Peninsula is a cool-climate region about 50 km southwest of Melbourne in Australia’s Victoria state. The Yabby Lake winery is moving toward organic farming methods.
Faint tropical fruit cocktail with some minerals and a sour note. Clean and relatively complex, the flavours tending to lemon and minerals. Winey and a tad alcoholic (14%) but with a freshening acidity. Long, tangy finish. (Buy again? Not when I can get a 1er cru Chablis for the same price.)
Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2009, Prestige, Simon Alexandre ($30.50, 11600888)
A recent arrival not from the Cellier release. Made by Domaine de la Présidente, not that you’ll find any mention of it on their website. A blend of Grenache Blanc (50%), Clairette (20%), Roussanne (20%) and Bourboulenc (10%) from 25-year-old vines. Destemmed and cold macerated before being given a long, cool fermentation. I’d originally sampled this from a bottle that had been open for several hours and found it a tasty and even classy southern Rhône white that delivered good QPR, hence my decision to include it in a tasting.
Perfumy, spicy nose with cut apple, sour mash and even medicinal scents. On the palate, heavy, alcoholic (14%), chalky and not very flavourful, the shy fruit candied. “A wine that even its mother couldn’t love.” And yet after a half-hour in the glass, it had transformed into what I remembered: white flowers, yellow fruit and minerals on the elegant nose; supple, if unctuous, and nicely balanced on the palate with a long, elegant finish. The taster who took the tail end home with him reports that the wine was even better the next day. (Buy again? Yes.)
Riesling 2010, Frankland River, Alkoomi ($19.65, 11034151)
Named after the waterway that flows through it, Frankland River is a relatively cool-climate subregion of Western Australia, about 350 km south-southeast of Perth and 80 km inland from the Indian Ocean.
Lime blossom, chalk and a hint of petrol. Dry and fruity with crisp acidity and a lime-scented finish. Not very deep but clean, refreshing and, at 11.8% ABV, quite pound-backable. (Buy again? Maybe.)
Riesling 2010, Eden Valley, Mesh (Grosset-Hill Smith) ($29.30, 11075930)
A recent joint venture by two leading winemakers. Located in South Australia, Eden Valley is a cooler region to the east-southeast of the better-known Barossa Velley. Its Reislings are said to improve with bottle age. This vegan-friendly wine clocks in at 12.5% ABV.
Lemon-lime and quartz, eventually gaining a bath powder note. Exceedingly dry. Pure, acidic and minerally but not otherwise noticeably flavourful. Long, citrus-pithy finish. (Buy again? Not at that price.)