Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 1997 (review)

82 points
This wine was much better 5 years ago. It was still a sound wine with earthy-tobacco like aromas and taste. The tannins were about gone, and no fruit left. This is another wine that states on the label that it will last longer than it did. The alcohol and acid are well balanced and the finish was quite long, given the state of the wine.

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Schild Estate Barossa Shiraz 2002 (review)

89 points

from Barossa Valley, South Australia 14.5%

It’s not often that you see a wine of this quality at this price.

Dark, sweet but balanced by some complex liquorice characters. Concentrated.

A new star – best buy.

PS this review, like all on this site is based on consuming the wine with food. Many reviews are based on multiple tastings.

Wirra wirra r.s.w. shriraz 2002 (review)

90 points

From Mclaren Vale, South Australia 14.5%

Drak black/red and shiny. This is a winemakers wine. Super clean. Well balanced, well perhaps a little too much acid, some added. Pristine and powerful fruit, a controlled but still obvious oak. The 2002 vintage is quite obvious here, as is the quality winemaking.

James Halliday gave this a huge score something like 97 points. It’s his sort of winemakers wine. Clean and powerful.

It’s the sort of wine that wins medals, but partly because it can’t be faulted. But I find a tad boring, by the numbers – even if it is so impressive.

I think it is very good. And fairly priced. But I’m damining it with faint praise really for a top wine.

What’s happening to my beloved rosé?

Why can’t the wine trade just let winemakers produce rosé for the ‘punter’?

I am starting to lose my passion for the deliciously ‘slurpable’ style of pink wine, so popular at this height of an Aussie summer. I feel that rosé as a wine style should be all about enjoying summer. The wine should be cold, a bright and inviting pink colour, have refreshing acidity, be fruit-driven, relatively cheap, and easy to drink. All the qualities that we sun-bronzed folk appreciate when the mercury tops 30 degrees C! Of late, I’m starting to find increasing complexity, high alcohol, reductions in sugar and other indicators of wine-making intervention in my beloved ‘crimson hints of summer’. Why is this so??

Let me share my marketing advice with any winery wishing to make rosé (and this advice is free, so you should at least look): Rosé, like Riesling, is one of a winery’s best opportunities to generate cash-flow quickly and easily. Exploit the market, we really don’t mind when we purse our lips to enjoy the flush of our cheeks with the joy a rosé brings to imbiber, and friends alike.

In simple terms, you only need to pick the grapes early(ish), crush and macerate on skins for up to 8 hours to gain a bright and pretty pink colour, drain the juice off, ferment (leaving residual sugar to balance the acidity for a wine served at around 4 degrees C), ‘clean up’ and bottle. Then release to the market in attractive packaging- ‘fresh as a daisy’. You can’t ask for a better opportunity to free up space in the winery and generate cash quickly!

For the doubters of my claim, just consider the market leading rosés…. For anyone with a track record in wine consumption, you would have heard of Mateus rosé. This simple, sweet, slightly spritzy pale pink wine was widely available and very popular for decades. To give you a more recent example from the Adelaide market, unless you have had your ears plugged over the last few years, you must have heard of Rockford Alicante Bouchet. In certain retailers the wine is still only available by allocation. The wine is arguably the market leading rosé. Other popular brands are Turkey Flat’s Rosé and Charles Melton’s Rose of Virginia. All of these wines are bright pink, ‘zesty’, fruit-driven, refreshing examples of pink wine. And yes, they all have perceptible (and thoroughly enjoyable) residual sugar!

Despite the increase in brands in this wine style over the past few years, these brands consistently lead the market. Many new entrants offer a dryer style, or softer style, or more complex style of rosé. I say, look at my comments above, and then ask yourself why your rosé isn’t selling.

A common fault is that producers ask the wine trade (and/or critics) what to do with their suggested new pink wine. Unfortunately, the wine trade is far more concerned with ‘serious’ wines and often suggest that rosé should be more serious. If you need a more objective view, ask a member of the wine trade to indicate the rosé they prefer to drink, if any. You can then make a decision as to whether to take their advice on a rosé you intend to make.

I recently asked a friend starting a degree in wine-making, to promise me that he would make a rosé for the ‘punter’. He promised he would, and I’m looking forward to his first attempt. Like any good marketer, I say- look at what the market likes, then make your decision on what to produce. You may not earn any kudos among the wine trade fraternity for producing a ‘less serious’ wine, but the consumer will love you for it, and your accountant will too!

Cheers!

De Bortoli Yarra Cabernet 1997 (review)

De Bortoli seems to be a bit of secret in spite of its top 10 status among Australia’s wineries. Empirically I know that lots of people drink De Bortoli, but very few people I talk to ever mention them. This Cabernet walks a straightl ine between the cool climate style Cab and a warm and ripe one (as 1997 was in the Yarra). It burst into my mouth with slightly hot and overripe Cab flavours, but followed with a slightly gritty tannin that did add a bit of length. At the same time the substantial and I think natural acid balanced this slightly rough wine. I found the wine on my shelf and think someone must have brought it and then left it. There are 2 gold medals, one from the Southern VIctorian Wine Show and the other from the Cowra Wine Show. My guess is that 8 years ago this French oaked and macerated Cabernet burst into their mouths too. The label says ‘ classic aging prospect over 8-10 years’. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer.

Tatachilla Foundation Shiraz 1999 (review)

88 points – v.good but without a distinctive style.

From McLaren Vale, South Australia. 14%

In 2002 this wine won the “great Australian Shiraz challenge” and James Halliday rated it 96 points!

So it is amazing that I can still buy it and under A$40 (ie no price rise). This winery has a reputation of preducing black/purple wines, super charged, and super clean – wine makers’ wines that scoop awards. Six years after vintage, which is a near perfect time to start drinking quality Australian shiraz, this is a dark red, well balanced though with just noticeable addded acidity.

The interesting thing is that the promise of youth hasn’t really paid off. Flavour has not built with (a small amount of) time. It is a good but restrained/balanced wine. Without great complexity, a very good quality version of commercial wine.

Peter Lehmann Eight Songs Shiraz 2000 (review)

91 points

from Barossa Valley, South Australia

OK, maybe I’m being generous with points but this wine is super opulent. There is a Peter Lehmann style of up front sweet Barossa fruit and noticeable oak. It’s very commerical, but few do it better. And here it is applied in a way to make a premium wine. And 5 years old and at a good price.

Obviously it’s in the ‘chocolate milkshake’ style of Barossa shiraz. But with french oak which really does have an impact.

The mouth-weight is extraordinary – really like cream – no other wine in the world can do this other than Barossa shiraz.

Savoury, sweet with great presence. Not complex, but very distinctive and so deserves a good rating. Terribly hard for anyone to dislike.