Stringy Brae 2001 Clare Valley Shiraz (review)

88+ points

This wine burst onto our palates when first opened. Unbridled fruit flavours with great intensity. Not much oak and soft but persistent tannins. I liked the very subtle oak and almost imperceptable added acidity. This is a powerful, but amazingly not over the top tasting Shiraz with powerful dark fruits and a bit of chocolate. Very persistent length bodes well for some aging. Too easy to drink.


NV Grandis Method Champenoise

Loire, France.

This was around $12 a bottle from 1st Choice (the other Australian big box liquor retailer). Bought it as an experiment, and because the faily that would usually join us for this type of dinner are in the Loire at present.
Toffee yellow in colour, excellent bead, mouthfeel and length. Concentrated dried apricot on the nose, and “creme brulee” palatte. Not too citrussy, but there in lemon drop and some soft green apple.
For $12 it is something different of excellent value, and fills a price point that does not offer much great drinking. Somehting to talk about. 9 months bottle maturation, and contains ugni blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir.

1999 Whels Mount Benson Cabernet Sauvignon

85 points.

Mt Benson, South Australia.

Extra fine tannin structure with light tobacco and sweet cedar. Mushroom/undergrowth comes through after an hour in the decanter. Crushed plum on the nose and palatte- slightly tart red forest berries finish in the mouth. A very supple, and elegant examplle of how good Mt Benson/Robe can be for this varietal. Deep, solid purple to the rim, and excellent drying tannins on the aftertaste. Great integration- nose to palatte to chase- all are one, no surprises, but slight nuances. Purchased in 2002 for around $20.

2003 Scorpo Pinot Gris- Mornington Peninsula

89 points.

Light pear nose with fig. Honey notes providing pleasant mouthfeel. Plenty of acid for this traditionally low acid varietal, and obvious malo and oak treatment- cremy on the nose and to taste. Excellent length for this type of wine- I have not experienced with this type of wine. Will age very well- already looking like a good Vouvray after a few years. Excellent with chargrilled marinated squid. I think it retails for around $30. Based on this, and the league it is in, this is a very fine example of what can be done with this varietal.

La Croix Chaptal Siegneurie de Cambous 2001

92 points

This is the winery partially owed by JP Couderc from Agro- Montpellier. The vineyard is mainly old vines planted near the town of Cambous about 45 minutes west of Montpellier.

The wine is mainly Carignan with a bit of Grenache and Syrah. The nose was still closed, but had a bit of cinnamon spice and licorice. The same tones were in the wine along with a almost thick structure of fine tannins. No fruit sweetness, but still a bit dark red fruits and spicy overtones. The wine was made to “express the unique terroir of Cambous as it must have been in the 10th century when owned by the monks of gellone Abbey”.

This is one of the best Languedoc wines I have tasted.

Coudoulet de Beaucastel 1999 (review)

85 points

Cotes-Du-Rhone, France. 13.5%

Good vintage. Made by Beaucastel from the vineyard across the road from their Chateauneuf-du-Pape vineyard, supposedly in just the same way.

So I’m surprised that this is fairly straightforward. It’s nice, the obvious Mouvedre giving the house style, but certainly less weighty and concentrated than expected.

I was hoping for a bargain. But as that the first bottle was corked it turned out to be rather expensive 😦

Cascabel Tempranillo/Graciano 2002

88 points.

McLaren Vale, South Australia. 13.5%

Dark red. Probably the first decent Australian tempranillo I’ve tried. Yet I’m sure I had this wine when younger and it was hard and undrinkable. Now it is quite impressive, with black olive characters.

My only complaint is that the wine is a bit flat on its feet. In spite of the screwcap and cool 2002 vintage the acid is a somewhat dull.

Nyetimber chardonnnay blanc de blancs 1995

88 points.

West Chiltington, West Sussex, United Kingdom. 12%

The back label says that vines have been grown on this estate since the 12th century.

This is proof that the UK can make fine sparkling wine. Not entirely surprising given the cool climate, but it has been some while coming. Most English wine is far from exciting.

This is medium full-bodied with pronounced chardonnay fruit, and fine cool climate acidity. More ‘New World’ than I’d expected, with the weight to handle light food. Nicely developed for its age and best to drink now.

Chambers Rutherglen Blue Imperial 1998 (review)

80 points

Rutherglen, North East Victoria, Australia. 13.3%

Cinsault, a variety still widely used in regional French blends. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen it in Australia.

Quite fresh fruit on the front palate, remarkable given its 8 years. Quite a lot of harsh limey tartaric acid, needless to say the wine is starting to through an acid crust.

I won’t buy this again but it wasn’t a bad wine with food. Simple, unpretentious, and refreshingly relatively light in alcohol by modern standards.

Faiveley Montagny ‘les jones’ 2000 review

85 points

Burgundy, France. 13%

A reasonably priced white burgundy, especially given that it was bought off retail shelves at nearly 6 years of age.

Quite strongly flavoured in a dry austere style with a surprising amount of French oak. I think with time this will fatten a tad, and the oak will subside. Like a minor claret, this is an interesting savoury wine that will age but doesn’t have tightly concentrated flavours that will build complexity with age.

An interesting contrast to New World chardonnay.

Annies Lane Copper Trail Shiraz 2001 (review)

88 points.

Clare Valley, South Australia. 15%

Unfiltered sort of crimson deep red. Some trapped CO2 (not uncommon nowadays). This is a surprisingly young wine for 5 years of age – perhaps partly due to the screwcap enclosure (and maybe recent bottling).

Very polished winemaking. A big ripe wine yet with some elegance due to perfect balance of (added) acidity, and deft though sweet & cosmetic oak.

Yes, a show pony wine. But a good quality one. Though this is reflected in the price: $40 if you buy right, $55 if you don’t.

Personally I find this boring for the price (even if you buy right). Yet I admire the pristine nature and the screwcap – with time it may be substantially better than many of its current peers.

PS recent winner of the “Great Australian Shiraz Challenge”.

Knappstein Lenswood 1999 Palantine (review)

85 points

Adelaide Hills. 13.5%

This version of Tim Knappstein’s Bordeaux style red is a Merlot Malbec Cabernet blend from the Adelaide Hills. Very disappointing when opened, as the nose was tight and the palate mainly tannin and a bit of that was green. After slow drinking for about 90 minutes, the wine opened as much as it could. It never developed much of a nose beyond a bit of spice and deep red fruits, the palate softened and a range of flavours emerged, but all the while blanketed in tannin.

Kilikanoon Covenant Shiraz 2002

90 points (perhaps)

Clare Valley, South Australia. 14.5%

I’m giving this high points because of the deep varied aromas. It’s a powerful and concentrated wine without being flat on its feet. That said it is hard to call it as fine and balanced when the mint toffee sweet oak is so apparent. I’m betting this will fade and at around 6-8 years of age will be a more palatable, and still impressive, wine.

Though, given the risk that I might be wrong, and given the price of around $35 I think I’d advise seeking out other Clare and indeed Kilikanoon wines rather than buying this. Unless of course that you really like confectionery oak.

Tim Smith Wines Shiraz 2002 (review)

85 points

Barossa Valley, South Australia. 14.5%

Dark unfiltered sort of colour (looks like there are fine particles in it). Old fashioned sort of nose – hot with tartaric acid giving greasepaint and (more as it gets older) leather aromas.

Big, strong, old fashioned sort of wine in spite of the French oak (new and used), groovy modern minimalist label, and (red) screwcap enclosure.

I was tipped off by Melbourne Street Wine Cellars to this wine, one of the early 2002 releases. They said this was a new winery, well priced, that was going to be cult, ie higher prices later. And all the packaging and french oak (unusual for Barossa shiraz) concurs. But I found the wine hard impenetrable when it was released. Now maybe 2 years later it is more accessible, and comes across like a good but unfashioned wine. There are many old established premium brands that deliver this sort of wine, like Penfolds.

Not really in the company of the new wave of Barossa wines as I previously thought.

To be blunt there is simply too much added acid in this wine, not that it is out of balance, the need for the acid was created in the vineyard.

Gembrook Hill Mayer Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004 (review)

85 points.

Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia. 13.2%

Considered an exciting new producer, this is a small project (only 16 barrels made) of the winemaker.

For such a young wine it is very approachable. Light red in colour, warm but not super concentrated aromas, sweetish fruit somewhat light strawberry jam-ish though largely managing to veer away from this.

Quite attractive but not exciting. Drink now or over the next 2-3 years. $27

Warramate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (review)

86 points

Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia. screwcap

Outstanding young colour, deep black purple with crimson flashes.

Surprising then that this wine is silky and approachable. It is quite opulent. Dry grown (completely non irrigated) fruit with considerable concentration. Exotic, blackcurrant fruit. But in a warm climate style. I might pick this for a cool vintage wine from McLaren Vale, or another warm Australian region, but not the Yarra Valley.

Interesting certainly. But not profound, lacks balance, not food friendly at all. Hard to drink, rather than taste, and that isn’t due to its age. Nevertheless good value. And I’d sure it would upstage many more well known and more expensive Australian cabernets in a tasting. $19

Tim Adams “The Aberfeldy” Clare Valley 1995

90 points plus.

This wine is very close to my heart- but I will try very hard to remain objective.
Reading the previous posts about this wine, I am very sure that my bottle was a pristine example.
There is no doubt in my mind that the previous review was of damaged stock. Although it was a very dry wine, the fruit, vanilla and leather well supported this.

I have been enjoying this wine for about the past 6 years. I bought a case of it when I was first getting serious about wine, and for me, this is my special occasion wine of choice along side my dwindling supply of 96 St Henri. If the wine were still as relatively cheap as I bought it (I paid about $29 aud per bottle) this wine would score much higher. It now sells for around $70 I believe. This is the price point I will use to rate this wine.

This wine is a prime example of the concentrated shiraz that Clare can produce if the vines are very old, and the fruit is in the hands of a great wine maker. The Aberfeldy vineyard is part of the original 1840’s (if my memory serves me correct) Birks family Wendouree planting. As such, the fruit gives awesome concentration and supplies ample potential for a huge, extracted wine that does reward 10 years+ rest.

For its era, the wine has high alcohol- 14 degrees. It handles this very well. The level was heading almost into the shoulder, which made it an easy drinking choice:). The colour was a deep terra cotta, solid to the edges. Clarity was excellent considering that this wine had not been filtered/fined.

The huge use of new amercican oak (22 months in Hogs) comes through on both the nose and palatte. Fresh vanilla pod on the nose, and the slight bitterness of the pod on the top of the tongue. This integrates magnificently with the slightly astringent blackberries (possibly some red forest berries also) on the nose and pallate. Well worn leather on the nose, + slight sawdust.

The fruit at its core was amazing, and the secondary flavours just added to it. This is a great example of how Clare shiraz can age well. Halliday uses a “iron fist in a velvet glove” comparison to demonstrate the fruits ability in this region to stay at the core, and the age characters to simply take the edge off. I could not agree more. This wine was complete in every way- the priamry and secondary flavours integrated seemlessley with each other, and the nose. The aftertaste was lengthy and an excellent encore to the initial clense.

As it opended up (half hour in the decanter), chocolate showed up on the nose and combined excellently well with the vanilla of the american oak and the dense blackberries. After 2 hours in the decanter the wine had dried up significantly- the bitterness of the red berries started to dominate, and we left the last glass in the decanter. You know a good wine when you can do this and feel utterly satisfied. My partner summed it up well (on our second anniversary:) :
“no one could say that this isn’t a great wine”

I can’t wait for next anniversary:)

Wine Auctions

I agree that wine auctions are perhaps the clearest indication of a wine’s financial worth. Of course they are driven by rarity rather than objective quality, but nonetheless they represent a wide view of a wine’s worth. However, auction indices, like any indices are sensitive to what is in the ‘basket’ to be indexed. Bordeaux in general has gone downwards in terms of price, while the top growths have gone upwards. So the index value depends on what is included. The Bordelais are about to pull out over 25% of their hectarage, so it is not surprising that overall the index is down.

John Loxton Regional Selection 2004 Barbera King Valley

Left over from a party, this wine is an obvious attempt at an Australian version of Italian wines for the lower end drinker. Initially the nose was a fruity cherry and old oak and the palate sweet with a lingering acidity. After airing for an hour (while 3/4 of the bottle disappeared), the nose and palate have lessened in fruitiness and picked up some savory and leathery notes, almost a bit of saddle soapiness. The acidity is still high, but it tastes natural (As Barbera has high normal acidity). The alcohol is not noticably high (13%), so this is really a food wine with a bit too much overt fruitiness. The label says the range is bottled by Vinpac, which makes it a Fosters or perhaps a Cellarmasters selection. Someone pencilled in 2007 on the label, which is perhaps when it should be drunk, but it’s too late for that.

Auction prices

Decanter magazine publishes an auction index for Bordeaux. Currently the index, set in December 1996, is at 117.6 (ie up only 17%) that’s below the inflation rate over the same 9 year period. Very odd, unbelievable actually, unfortunately they do not explain fully how they calculate their index.

Langton’s the Australian auction house maintains an index set at 1000 in 1991 it is now slightly over 2000. If it had only risen with inflation it should be at 1400 now. Oddly though the index reached 2500 in 1999 after which it dropped and has been flat for 5 years now.

Wine auction indices are somewhat odd in that a single vintage typically rises in price then stalls and even can decline, eventually vintages have to be removed and new ones added. Wine auction indices seem really only useful for comparing changes over a few years.

Chateau Pato ‘old Pokolbin vineyard’ shiraz 2003 (review)

87 points

Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia. 14.5% screwcap.

Lots of different flavours, all over the place, so let me sum up the wine first… a sleek soft fat alcoholic sweet wine with savoury tones – some 2000 Chateaunef-du-Pape wines come (somewhat) close in style. Very approachable.

Sweet but saved by smokey oak. And the slightly cowshed finish is attractive – really.

Something of a show pony wine yet not in the commercial show style, sort of show pony for the cognoscenti. A$27