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Posts Tagged ‘Australia

Spain 2, Australia 1

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Didn’t set out to do a Vintrinsec-only flight but that’s how it ended up. Is the agency cornering the Mencia market in Quebec?

McLaren Vale 2016, Mencia, The Anthropocene Epoch, D’Arenberg ($29.90, 13491136)
Australian Mencia. Who knew? Apparently, this is the first vintage of the wine. 100% Mencia. The grapes are hand-picked and vinified on a parcel-by-parcel basis. The grapes are gently crushed and placed in fermentation vats. About two-thirds of the way through fermentation (with selected yeasts), the grapes are foot-trod, then basket-pressed and transferred to old French oak barrels for nine months. Reducing sugar: 2.7 g/l. 14% ABV. Screwcapped. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Outgoing nose of plum skin, berries, slate, herbs, black pepper, beef fat and clay. Full-bodied but not galumphing, dense with ripe fruit but not a bomb. Clean and dry, with soft tannins, freshening acidity and a flavour not that far from cherry cola. Good finish that gains wood notes as the wine warms and breathes. A shade less minerally than the other wines in the flight but respectable nonetheless. (Buy again? When looking for a crowd-pleaser to pour at a classy backyard barbecue, sure.)

Bierzo 2014, Gus, Raúl Pérez ($26.10, 13354457)
Rockstar winemaker Pérez named an earlier entry-level cuvée Dargo, after a pet dog. This cuvée is named after one of his cats. 100% Mencia from organically farmed 70-year-old vines. Matured 12 months in neutral French oak barrels. Reducing sugar: 1.6 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Red and black licorice, slate and a touch of volatile acidity lending a vinyl note (a second bottle opened a few days later was pristine). A medium-bodied, fluid mouthful of juicy fruit (black raspberry, mainly) and dark minerals. Alive with acidity and firmed by smooth tannins. Credible energy and depth. Faint vanilla and char notes emerge on the finish. Not quite the equal of the long-ago Lalama but about as good a Mencia as you’ll find for the price. (Buy again? Yes.)

Ribeira Sacra 2016, Joven, Mencia, Adegas Guímaro ($21.00, 12752533)
Mencia (90% with five percent each of Caiño Tinto and Sousón, all from organically farmed vines in various parcels with soils ranging from granite to slate and sand. Manually harvested. The lots are fermented separately by soild type. About three-quarters of the harvest is destemmed; the remainder is left in whole clusters. Cold-macerated six days. Fermented 20-30 days with indigenous yeasts, half in tanks and half in foudres. Matured six months in tanks on the lees. Unfiltered. Cold-stabilized. Fined with egg whites. Added sulphur is kept to a minimum. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vintrinsec.
Bretty nose of tomato paste, red and black berries and slate. Medium-bodied. fruit-forward and fleet, due in no small part to the bright acidity. The juicy fruit is undertoned with minerals and overtoned with herbs. Light tannins provide an appealing rasp. Finishes long and clean on a spicy note. Nothing profound but honest, drinkable and affordable. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG March 9th tasting: flight 4 of 5

Written by carswell

May 9, 2018 at 11:25

Vibrant, tasty, companionable

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Adelaide Hills 2016, Skin n’ Bones Pinot Noir, BK Wines ($38.00, importation valise)
100% Pinot Noir from organically farmed vines grown in the cool-climate Lenswood subregion of the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. Manually harvested. After sorting, 70% of the clusters were left whole and 30% destemmed. All the fruit was then placed in French oak barrels (10% new, 90% neutral), leaving a generous amount of head space to be filled by the carbon dioxide gas resulting from fermentation. The barrels were sealed and the wine was allowed to spontaneously ferment and macerate for 100 days, after which the barrels were broken apart and the wine pressed. Bottled unfiltered and unfined. 12.8% ABV. Represented in western Canada by Calgary-based Crush Imports.

Fragrant, engaging nose: raspberry and cherry along with sandalwood, cedar, “tomato sauce” and graphite. Light- to medium-bodied. Juicy but not a bomb. Actually, there’s lots of detail, great precision and real energy. The sweet silky fruit is framed by fresh acidity and light though very present tannins. Chewing reveals unsuspected depth and structure. The spice-overtoned finish is clean and well sustained. A vibrant, tasty, companionable Pinot Noir that, while accessible now, has the potential to develop over the next few years. (Buy again? Yep.)

Based on this and the same estate’s Savagnin, some enterprising agency needs to be bringing these wines into Quebec.

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 5 of 7

Written by carswell

November 12, 2017 at 12:34

Antipodal Savagnins

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Côtes du Jura 2015, Savagnin, Les Sarres, Domaine Rijckaert ($29.95, 12951356)
The estate avoids herbicides and insecticides and limits its use of synthetic chemicals to treatments against mildew and odium. All the estate’s wines are made in barrels. 100% Savagnin from the Les Sarres vineyard located in Buvilly. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Underwent full malolactic fermentation. Matured two years on the lees in neutral French oak barrels with no stirring. Kept topped up, so not oxidized. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.
Slightly hazy pale electrum to the eye. Minerally nose of lemon and grapefruit with hints of potpourri and almond. In the mouth, it’s clean and tonic. The fruit (lemon, yellow plum) is sweet-seeming on the attack, though the wine is actually very dry. There’s a real mineral depth, including a shot of salinity. The bright acidity combines with a faint bitterness on the long finish to provide a bit of grip. Less electric than some Savagnins but still a fine example of what the grape can do. (Buy again? Sure.)

Adelaide Hills 2016, Skin n’ Bones White, BK Wines ($35.00, importation valise)
The South Australian estate was founded in 2007 by Brendon and Kristy Keys. This monovarietal is made using Savagnin from organically farmed 10-year-old vines rooted in limestone and sandstone over deep clay in Lobethal in the cool-climate Lenswood subregion. The grapes were manually harvested and fully destemmed but not crushed. Spent one month on the skins with twice-daily pump-overs, then was pressed and racked into neutral French oak barrels with regular stirring for nine months. Alcoholic and full malolactic fermentation were spontaneous. Total production: 200 cases. 11.8% ABV. Represented in western Canada by Calgary-based Crush Imports.
One-of-a-kind nose of “smoked fish,” “sushi” and “barbecued corn” (quoting other tasters) as well as dried apricot and, with time, green fruit (kiwi, melon) and herbal notes. Dry, fluid and layered. Nicely structured with pervasive but smooth acidity, a current of white minerals and ghostly tannins that last well into the long finish. Grape skins and apricot pit linger. As unusual and engaging as it is savoury and delicious. (Buy again? Gladly.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

November 10, 2017 at 13:31

Gauzy Ozzie

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Blewitt Springs 2016, Chenin Pet nat, Jauma ($43.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Founded and run by former sommelier James Erskine and based in the Basket Range section of the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, Jauma is one of the leaders of Australia’s natural wine movement. An ancestral method sparkler. 100% Chenin Blanc from 60-year-old vines organically farmed by Fiona Wood. Manually harvested. Fermented in stainless steel with indigenous yeasts. Matured in French oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. No added anything, including sulphur. Crown cap. Residual sugar: ca. 10 g/l. 10.5% ABV. Also available in 12-bottle cases at the LCBO ($53.10, 361641). Quebec agent: WINO.

Hazy, pale yellow-beige. Super natural nose of lemon pith and apple, lees, “jasmine” (per another taster) or maybe honeysuckle and “a little hairspray.” Very dry in the mouth, with tiny, tickly bubbles. The zingy acidity and lemony flavours bring lemonade and maybe wheat beer to mind. The complex of minerals includes a saline streak. The long, savoury finish brings a chamomile or “chrysanthemum tea” note. Light, tart, refreshing and so much fun to drink. The Quebec – let alone Ontario – price does give one pause but this is an ideal summer sipper. (Buy again? A splurge bottle, yes.)

MWG July 13th tasting: flight 2 of 9

Written by carswell

August 22, 2017 at 12:48


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MWG member Nick spent the holidays down under. While he didn’t make it to Clare Valley as originally planned, he did bring back a fascinating trio of new vintage, dry Clare Valley Rieslings, which he kindly shared with the group.

Clare Valley 2016, Riesling, Watervale, Gully View Vineyard, Koerner ($27.00, importation valise)
100% Riesling from 17-year-old vines rooted in the red clay and limestone soil of the Gullyview vineyard. Manually harvested in two passes a week apart. The first pass grapes were pressed immediately; the second pass grapes were given 24 hours of skin contact before pressing. In both cases, a small amount of sulphur was added to the press tray. The juice was cold-settled for about a week. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts in ceramic eggs and stainless steel tanks lasted about three weeks. Matured five months on the fine lees. Bottled unfiltered and unfined but with a small squirt of sulphur dioxide. Vegan compatible. Screwcapped. 12% ABV.
Classic, open nose of white flowers, apple, lime, quartz, flint. A sleek textured mouthful of grapefruit and “apricot” that seems almost sweet upfront but proves quite dry. Chewing brings out the crisp acidity and plenty of minerals. Lime, green apple and spice notes and a lingering bitterness mark the finish. A delicious gush on opening, this had lost some of its oomph by the time we got around to it a hour or so later. (Buy again? At least another bottle for research purposes.)

Clare Valley 2016, Riesling, Watervale, Gullyview Vineyard, Adelina ($23.00, importation valise)
No, it’s not a typo; Koerner and Adelina do indeed spell the vineyard name differently. 100% Riesling from vines planted in 1977 and 2001 in red loamy clay over limestone. The grapes were manually harvested and whole cluster-pressed. The juice was cold-settled then fermented in stainless steel tanks with selected yeasts. Fermentation was halted with around 5 g/l of sugar remaining. The wine was then clarified and bottled. Screwcapped. 11.5% ABV. Only about 2,400 bottles made.
Hazy and one of the least coloured wines I’ve seen. Complex nose of white gas, lemon-lime zest, “white lily,” minerals, rainwater and “ground cherry.” Light and fresh in the mouth, fruity yet dry, ethereal yet dimensional. Flavours tend to citrus, green apple and a chalky tutti-fruitiness one taster likens to “love hearts.” Turns savoury on the long, minerally finish. Full of energy and lots of fun. Excellent QPR. (Buy again? Yes.)

Clare Valley 2016, Riesling, Polish Hill, Grosset ($55.00, importaton valise)
The 36th vintage of this wine. 100% Riesling from organically farmed vines in the 8 ha Polish Hill vineyard. The soil is shallow shale and a thin crust of clay marl over slate. Yields are extremely low, giving the equivalent of two bottles per vine. The grapes were hand-picked. A small portion of whole clusters were set aside; the rest of the grapes were crushed and destemmed. The fruit was gently pressed and the free-run juice was chilled to near freezing and allowed to settle and clarify in a tank for five days. Low-temperature fermentation and maturation took place in stainless steel tanks. Blended just before bottling in July 2016. Vegan compatible. Screwcapped. 12.7% ABV. A few bottles of the excellent and more approachable 2012 ($50.00, 10956022) remain at the SAQ. Quebec agent (per the Grosset website): Elixirs.
Closed yet profound nose: lime, chalky quartz, eventually linden flower. Rich, racy, structured, deep and long. The fruit, minerals and acidity are in perfect taut balance. A bone-dry Riesling with every positive quality, including heft and presence. Needs time. Deserves a place alongside such giants as Ostertag’s Muenchberg and Nikolaihof’s Steiner Hund. (Buy again? Yes.)


As usual, the wines were served double-blind. While the grape variety was soon deduced, no one guessed the provenance and several tasters were astounded to learn that Australia is producing such engaging, fleet and minerally whites. In short, to quote one taster, “a revelatory flight.”

MWG February 17, 2017, tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

March 3, 2017 at 12:35

Lush life

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“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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by carswell

December 6, 2014 at 14:40

Salon VIP 2014: Root day at Rézin (6/7)

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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.)

Written by carswell

November 17, 2014 at 12:30

MWG February 13th tasting (1/5): Dry Riesling shoot-out

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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.

Written by carswell

February 24, 2014 at 10:31

MWG April 13th tasting (4/5): Twixt Old World and New

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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.)

Written by carswell

June 4, 2013 at 14:49

MWG May 11th tasting: report (5/5)

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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.)

Written by carswell

May 22, 2012 at 11:55