Red Nectar Wines Shiraz 2002 (review)

91 points

From Stonewell, Barossa Valley, South Australia.

Super saturated wine. Inky colour. Aromas of densely packed fruit and well handled American oak. A very concentrated wine that carries its 14.5% alcohol effortlessly. Silky, rather than soft, with some milky American oak flavours. There are hints of the chocolate milkshake style Barossa shiraz but the structure and level of concentration are different. This is a new wave Barossa shiraz, finer, more concentrated (see earlier post on styles of Barossa shiraz).

My only criticism is that the wine is somewhat closed at present. It’s approachable but flavours are so close knit. Also there is a touch of burntness – personal preference if you think this is good feature or not. I didn’t I’d prefer some more savoury rather than burnt notes. I’d prefer some French oak. In future vintages it would be nice to see more focus on complexity rather than just balance and concentration.

Only 33 cases of this wine were made ! Which makes this review rather academic. But presumably production is increasing. This bottle was given to me by a friend, who is sister of the owner/vigneron. But that doesn’t mean I’m biased. I’ve given it lower points than Robert Parker did for the 2003 (lesser vintage). And a tad lower than for Winter Creek – perhaps unreasonably, but because this wine is more closed at present.

Chateau de l’Engararran cuvee Quetton Saint-Georges 2001 (review)

85 points

Coteaux du Languedoc

The top wine of this producer, which one of my french wine books notes prominately as “run by women” ! Gender perhaps is suppsosed to affect the taste of the wine. Well it must be of the better as this is at the forefront of Languedoc wines.

A shiraz, grenache, carignan blend – heavily weighted to the former varieties and given new oak. This is a serious wine for the region.

It has an obvouious milky aspect, and interesting, though not overt, fruit flavours. A decent to fine, not commercial manufactured New World, wine – yet one that many in the New World could appreciate as it is ripe and not dilute.

PS available in Australia from Dan Murphy’s (around A$20).

Chenin Blanc – over looked ?

I’ve just noticed that two of the highest (if not the highest) rated wines on this web site are for Chenin Blanc based wines (one Australian and one French).

OK I gave the reviews so I shouldn’t be surprised. But this is a varietal that I very very seldom drink. Who does drink chenin blanc regularly ? I don’t think there is any doubt that it is one of the great grape varieties of the world, capable of producing fine wines with great longevity. But it seldom gets any attention. While that other (sauvignon) blanc’s popularity just keeps growing. Odd.

Jaboulet ‘les jalets’ Crozes Hermitage 2001 (review)

70 points

Rhone, France

100% Syrah / Shriaz

From a fine Rhone vintage, a big brand, made in volumes and priced to be attractive to restuarants around the world. Trading on the name Hermitage. I’ve not been impressd with this wine in the past, but the vintage was a good one.

Med red, some nice savoury leather aromas but also water and rose petals (not attractive in a shiraz). Tastes the same, very dilute. How can you make a wine like this in such a vintage ? There are far better Languedoc wines – and the Languedocis famous for over cropping. Very disappointing.

Review- Paringa Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2002

Wow!

Although my experience of of the world’s finest Burgundies goes no further than my trip there in 2003, I understand Myles’ neurotic passion for his beloved Pinot! The ever-so-forgetable examples of Pinot I’ve consumed in the past 15 years well exceed the ethereal bottles of heaven I’ve had the pleasure to consume. Thankfully, this wine falls into the latter bracket.

Australian Pinot is often maligned for being too-anything. Too dark, too oaky, too short, too light, too simple, too…. you get the picture. Australian producers of this variety have done themselves no favours by releasing wines that should never have made it to market. Some examples of Australian Pinot should just have been released as dry red wine, or sold off to a large producer for blending, to save the heartache that comes with a failure to produce the holy grail of winemakers. I suspect that ego and cash flow are the main reasons behind the release of sub-standard Pinot, but neither reason is an acceptable excuse when alternative options exist.

Back to the Paringa Estate. You’ll note I said- wow! This wine has won a heap of awards, not least of which was the gong it got at the Sydney wine show. Unfortunatley, there were only two barriques of the wine made (aprox 50 cases). This Pinot is one of the best I’ve tried. The wine had a breath of freshly ground cinnamon over a bowl of strawberries and clotted cream. There were hints of sour cherry, stemminess and whiffs of mushroomy undergrowth. Bacon and smoke could also be found for those with patience and a keen nose. The texture was pure class! The tannins were fine and supple and the length of the wine just kept going and going.

Perhaps it was the char-grilled lamb rump with artichoke mash and wilted spinach I had with the wine? It could have been the fellow Pinotphiles or even the lateness of the evening. Whatever it was, this wine was amazing for its depth of flavour, intensity of fruit and beautifully balanced structure!

If you can get hold of this wine- snap it up! The (almost $100-) price tag makes it out of reach for many, but your search-and-spend mission is far more rewarding than much of the wine from Burgundy.

Cheers!

Domaine Cazes Cotes Du Roussillon Villages 1998

88 points

You often hear about Languedoc as the largest French wine region, but rarely about its sister area, Roussillon. This region sits to the south of the Pyrenees and on the far western coast of France bordering Spain. The key varieties are similar to the Rhone area, with Grenache, Syrah, Mouvedre and Carignan. This wine comes from the region near the ocean of Rivesaltes and contains Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre.

When I first opened it, I thought it should rate about 83 points, but after a couple hours it opened up to an 88. It is still red, but deep in colour. The nose is muted with a hint of spice and tar. Once in the mouth, the wine is very smooth, no rough tannins and no apparent oak, though the label says it was put into barrels. The wine is relatively simple, but seamless, flowing over the tongue and remaining long in the mouth after swallowing.

A great bargain at less than 6 euros.

Domaine Richaud Cairanne Cotes du Rhone Villages 2001

86 points
I enjoy this style of mid-lower Rhone Valley wines for their dark colour and Grenache-Shiraz fruit. This wine exhibited a bit of licorice and gamey Grenache flavours. The nose was spicy with a bit of earthy tones. The wine has more texture than a similar Australian one, but far less fruit. The wine maker has done a vintage here in Australia and hosted several Australian wine makers, including Dave Powell of Torbreck. Too bad we can’t buy this wine in Australia for the 7 euros it cost me!!

Get a life – drink fine wine ?

Clive Coates says that drinking fine wine is part of the art of fine living. What I think he is getting at is that a good life is something you have to work at.

Children enjoy enormous excitement over new things, like pleasurable taste sensations. As adults it’s easy to be jaded and settle for mediocrity. And so easy to settle for the same things we enjoyed as children (habit) even though the excitement is largely gone. Many adults would still list junk food and commercial chocolate as their principle eating pleasures.

How many people do you know are happy with the commercial wine they buy over and over, and/or aren’t terribly fussed with what’s served for dinner ? That’s so many people. It’s why hardly anyone cooks anymore.

And plenty of people watch TV they don’t really care about, read brainless books by the same bestselling author, and watch Hollywood formula movies – sometimes even when they know that none of this is very exciting anymore.

This isn’t living, is it ? It’s at least partially tuning out of life – or what life can offer.

Lenswood Semillon 2000

90+

It’s too bad Tim Knappstein is no longer making this wine. He had so much problem selling Semillon, that he grafted the vines over to Gewurtztraminer (which is a very nice drop!). This wine has 4+ years of bottle age and has begun the changeover from lemon to a toasty almost oaky flavour. Lots of mouth feel and still some citrus character. It tastes like it was fermented in older oak, rather than the very acid no oak style of Hunter. More akin to a white Bordeaux. Great drinking if you can find it.

Chateau Haut-Bages Averous 1997 (review)

84 points

From Pauillac, Bordeaux, France.

Effectively the 2nd wine of Lynch-Bages, and supposed to be a pretty successful one too. 1997 was a forward, easy drinking vintage, with up front ripe wines.

Nice varietal flavours but without the intense blackcurrent cabernet that Pauillac can deliver. A touch of warm sweet oak. Some style and charm, but ultimately soft with a lack of top-class concentration.

I’ve yet to try a 1997 that I would recommend. At their best they are well made and early drinking.

Travaglini Gattinara riserva 1998 (review)

82 points

From Gattinara, a small region near Piedmont, Italy.

Distintictive sort of warped bottle shape – very interesting. This little known (and tiny) area makes red wine fromm Nebbiolo. Travaglini have won a number of awards.

Dark colour, aromas of fig and leather mingled with berry fruit – very promising. This follows through on the palate but along with a considerable amount of malic acid. Leaving a taste as if eating a dark red apple. Perhaps not surprisingly I found this off putting.

Perhaps with age the wine could gain a higher score. It has the complexity and structure. Or perhaps the acid will always be there. Drink with (Italian) food.

Hardys Tintara McLaren Vale Grenache 2002 Le Pommier Sauvignon Blanc 2002

Hardys Tintara McLaren Vale Grenache 2002
88+ points

I should confess at the start to being a Grenache kind of guy (dog). This is a style I like, very earthy with raspberry like fruit. It is not overripe (alcohol listed at 14%) and not hot on the palate. It is a good example of what some large companies can do with good fruit using mainly traditional practices, like open fermenters and basket pressing, and keep prices reasonable. I say very good value if you like this style. My only negative is that the wine does not achieve great length and after a couple hours aeration was even shorter. This indicates to me that the label instructions to age for 5-8 years might be a bit optimistic.

The Hermit Crab d’Arenberg McLaren Vale Marsanne Viognier 2002

91 points

While I am confessing and drinking McLaren Vale wines, I should say that this style is one of my wife’s and my favourites too. We can’t often afford the Rhone equivalents, or even the $45 Yalumba Viognier. This $14 wine is very good value for the quality. The criticism is that the wine is a bit rough, with some apparent extraction, but overly so. The blend seems ot be heavier on the Marsanne with very good mouth feel, a thick and almost luscious quality. The Viognier is not strongly apparent, no strong honeysuckle flavours, just a lingering sweet fruitiness and aftertaste. The wine is excellent with various starters, like smoky dips, olives, and cold seafood. Two years in bottle have reduced the fruit, but made the wine more complex without being flat.

Le Pommier Sauvignon Blanc 2002 (Walker Bay South Africa).

85 points

This wine probably would have scored higher if I had opened it sooner. Walker Bay is a cool climate region east of Capetown along the coast. The style is meant to be drunk young. I gave it 85 because it still tasted good, with balanced natural acidity, some fruit, and a bit of a honeyed taste from the bottle age. The alcohol was high at 14%, but there were no harsh traces or hotness. The bit of bottle age made it taste more European than New World, with the emphasis on texture and complexity, rather than strong up front fruit.

Review- Irvine ‘The Baroness’

It just needs support from the trade…

This wine is remarkable in a number of ways. Before discussing what they are, I just want to offer a bit of background on the wines from Irvine. The Irvine ‘Grand Merlot’ has received innumerable plaudits over the years, with good reason. The wine is arguably the best expression of the Merlot grape that this country produces. Some might cite Highbank or Katnook’s contribution, but for me, it’s Irvine.

More recently, Irvine has also been ‘kicking goals’ with its Zinfandel. Although the variety is relatively unknown by a majority of the market, the press and wine trade have certainly been interested in Irvine’s examples of this under-rated variety. The interest shown by the trade to both of these varieties makes the lack of support for ‘The Baroness’ more perplexing.

I suspect that the problems for ‘The Baroness’ stem from the winery’s perception of their own wine. Contrary to promoting the wine’s delicious varietal expression and exhibition of developed and youthful characters, the back label virtually apologises for being a non-vintage wine. Yes, that’s right- a non-vintage wine. The wine is a blend of 50% Barossa and 50% Eden Valley fruit. The split is not indicated, but I suspect that the two Merlot components from ’98 (9% of blend) and ’99 (41% of blend) are from the Eden Valley and the two components from 2001 (28% Cabernet Franc and 22% Cabernet Sauvignon) are from the Barossa Valley.

The blurb indicates that the wine will eventually be a blend of components from a single vintage. Although a blend of vintages may be indicative of a winemaker attempting to blend away undesired components, it is important to remember that the the house style of world’s best sparkling wines, from Champagne, consist of a blend of base wines from different vintages.

Granted, the best wines from Champagne are from ‘declared’ vintages, and single vintage wines tend to cost more than non-vintage blends. But bear in mind that ‘The Baroness’ is not regarded as the best wine from Irvine either! The Baroness retails for aprox. $45-, and is worth every cent!

Now, about the wine: It is an excellent example of what a consumer would expect from a wine of the Cabernet family…. The first thing evident about this wine is its intriguing mixture of purple and garnet colour. The wine in virtually opaque and with elegant ‘legs’ dancing around the inside of the glass, the first impression is of well-balanced alcohol content. The fruit characters are a mixture of dried tomato, plum, mulberry and blackcurrent, with floral notes of roses and hints of spearmint. The developed aroma and flavour of mocha is starting to show along with some lovely fine-grained tannins on the finish. There is heat evident on the finish, but not so the wine tastes out of balance.

The wine was excellent with a chunk of cloth-bound Ironstone cheddar and wood-oven bread with Joseph ‘foothills’ olive oil. I suspect that the alternative of parmesan crusted, mushroom stuffed sardines on a proscuito and raddichio salad would have been an ample foil as well. However, the cheese did it for me!

If the producers put more support behind this style of wine, I suspect there would be more interest in it from the trade. The staff at the Hilton certainly enjoyed it, and I suspect many others would too- if they can beat me to buying it.

Cheers!

Chateau Garonne Ste Gemme 2001 & 2002 (review)

2002 – 89 points
2001 – 86 points

From bordeaux, France.

A reliable cru bourgeois. Cabernet dominant blend. In past years I remember it for being good value (I could afford it as a student), ripe, but with old oak sometime dirty.

The 2001 is pretty impressive, dark, weighty, brawny. But some shellfish water aromas and flavours are off putting.

A half bottle of the 2002 seemed much fresher. But also richer with a touch of syrupy concentration. Very impressive for the price. Worth trying again.

Chateau Plaisance 2001 (review)

85 points

From Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France

Coffee, plum aromas. Young mid weight St. Emilion with a modern style. The sweet smoky oak flavours are pretty trendy. I’ve marked the points down because of a lack of individual style, this is a designer right bank (merlot based) wine. Very pleasant though and not expensive for what it is.

Reserve de Leoville Barton 2000 (review)

80 points

From St Julian, Bordeaux

2nd wine of Leoville Barton a consistently fine producer.

This is awesome shiny red/black wine. Intense and concentrated, classic cassis but marred by volatile acidity. One suspects that this 2nd wine is made simply of casks that showed too much volatility. Which in turn makes me suspect the 2000 Leoville must be an incredibly intense concentrated wine.

Reminds me a bit of Wynn’s John Riddoch cabernet from coonawarra Australia. An expensive Australian wine that isn’t a lot of fun to drink.

Chateau Sociando-Mallet 1986 (review)

92 points

From Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France

Great dark colour, fantastic for 19 years of age. Concentrated, almost sweet flavour that hits immediately and then ends with a still substantial tail of tannin. I’ve not previously been a super fan of this wine or vintage, but this really is coming into its own now.

Serious claret. Well cellared.

A Sauvignon Blanc comparison – NZ and Aus

An unsurprising outcome…….

Secret Stone 2004 (NZ) vs Cannibal Creek 2004 (Australia)

As expected, the more popular wine was the NZ sauvignon blanc from the famous Marlborough region. That is not to say that the Australian wine was ordinary, just that the NZ wine is a more popular style in the easy-to-enjoy fresh, fruity and vibrant mold.

Sauvignon blanc exhibits aromas and flavours from ‘green’, tannic and stalky flavours for under-ripe examples, through a delicious range of cut grass, apple, bell-pepper, citrus, redcurrant, gooseberry, kiwi-fruit, peach, passionfruit, pineapple and lychee for those examples with beautifully ripened fruit. Riper examples tend to show more mango, stewed/fermented tropical fruit or indeterminate fruit salad-like characters.

We tasted two sauvignons blanc at one of our recent fortnightly wine comparisons. A panel of marketers with the opportunity to express their thoughts, opinions and evaluation of two styles of the same variety gathered to compare the market-leading Marlborough example of sauvignon blanc and an Australian alternative. The value of these panels is to identify the differences in two wines of the same variety or style. We take a market-leading example and an alternative wine to compare. The goal is to appreciate the qualities that the market values in the market leader and identify what the alternative wine presents to the market.

The NZ wine was the 2004 Secret Stone, from Marlborough and the Australian wine was the 2004 Cannibal Creek, from the Gippsland region of Victoria. Both wines exhibited typical characteristics of sauvignon blanc. The NZ wine was more in the aperitif style, with more apparent acidity, notes of grass and green capsicum, followed by a citrus, peach and passionfruit fruit -driven flavour. The finish was long and clean, with apparent residual sugar. The Australian wine had less of the green characters, showing more of the kiwi-fruit, gooseberry, peaches and cream palate. The Australian wine was clearly intended to be consumed with food. It had lower acidity and a more developed palate for the slices of oven-baked bread and ‘Edith’s’ goats cheese we enjoyed with it. The cheese really brought out the best of the Australian wine.

On the day, the NZ example was preferred by most of the panel. As an aperitif style, Marlborough sauvignon blanc is second-to-none. The Australian producer could focus on the textural qualities of their wine, or more specifically, its synergistic combination with goat’s cheese, pesto or other sauvignon blanc fare such as a char-grilled autumn vegetable salad, white asparagus, citrus zest and toasted breadcrumbs or freshly shucked oysters.

In short, neither wine was a poor example of the variety. Both were prime examples of sauvignon blanc as a wine variety. There are better examples of the variety out there, but there are also many wines of lesser quality. Drink up and enjoy!