Huet Le Mont sec Vouvray 2000 (review)

84 points

Loire, Valley, France. 12.5%

Gold colour, surprisingly advanced. Varietal aromas but with some oxidation. Nice weight. Enjoyable with food, delicious with oysters, but drying out. I suspect that this advanced maturity is due to poor handling or the cork. Bought off retail shelves in Australia recently.

Tyrrell’s Rufus Stone Heathcote Shiraz 2003 (review)

90 points

Heathcote, Victoria, Australia. 15.2% screwcap

Dark with youthful flashes of magenta. Dense burnt aromas with a touch of tar, quite closed. Full throttle wine, somewhat fruit pastille like, ripe to burnt but fresh. Great concentration. Quite an achievement, amazing value at $15.

Hopefully the sweetness will done down a tad with age and the flavours will open up a bit, in which case I’d rate this wine even higher. However in spite of the heroic structure I wouldn’t want to bet on aging this for long, and it drinks quite well now so its tempting not to, but rather wait for the cooler less challenging (for the winemaker) 2004 vintage.

Taylors Shiraz 2003 (review)

89 points

Clare Valley, South Australia. 15%

Dark red, slightly dull. Warm to hot aromas but not porty. Hits with a wall of solid flavour, big burly, reflecting the hot vintage in 2003. Some sweetness and nice chewy balancing tannin. Good handling of a difficult vintage, but a wine to drink early in case the fruit dries out quickly.

Hardys Tintara Shiraz 2000 (review)

67 points

McLaren Vale, South Australia. 14%

Dry black olive flavours are the only thing I can compliment this wine on. Hard, dried out. Commercial and plain. Reeks of added acidity – whic dominates the wine as everything else has fallen away.

Hardys is the biggest selling company brand in the UK, and this wine is not at the bottom of their brand ladder. OK it may not have been stored well, and 2000 wasn’t the greatest vintage but this is pretty ordinary industrial winemaking.

Bannockburn Shiraz 2002 (review)

88 points

Geelong, Victoria. 14%

Dark. Funky burgundian aromas. I’m giving this wine high points for its individual style. It’s richly flavoured but with charred oak and vegetal flavours that you rarely encounter in Australian shiraz. I suspect there is whole bunch fermentation as is often done with pinot noir.

The alcohol is too high though for the style, and I’d prefer to see more mid-palate concentration and more tannin. I suspect the cool dry vintage encouraged leaving the fruit on the vine in order to gan physiological ripeness as the green flavours hung on – Geelong can be very cool/cold. But this gave the wine a fair whack of alcohol (and nice colour).

Tardieu-Laurent Les Grandes Bastides Vacqueyras 2001 (review)

88 points

Southern Rhone, France. 14%

Les Grandes Bastides is a 2nd label for Michel Tardieu’s wines. Designed for restaurants, authentic wines with less oak that don’t need as much age. That said I think this has benefited from some age, and may even deserve another year or two. It’s very much a wine of Southern France with sun-kissed Grenache warmth, and a touch of Provencial herbs. Yes it is evocative. It’s smooth and dark, enjoyable wine. Well grown, well made.

Domaine Roger Lassarat Saint-Veran ‘les mures’ 2000 (review)

89 points

Saint-Veran, Burgundy, France. 13%

Light gold. Classic reserved chardonnay and hessian aromas. This is a lovely light white burgundy, some touches of green mingle with medium-bodied fruit. Flavour without the alchohol weight and sweetness of New World chardonnay. This lacks great concentration though – match carefully to food.

Showing little sign of its six years of age. Drink over the next 4 years. it occurs to be that I have a number of good Australian chardonnays in my cellar but very few can be aged for more than six years.

Chateau Rollan de By 2001 (review)

90 points

Medoc, Bordeaux, France. 12.5%

I’ve reviewed this wine previously. It was always substantial, but four-square, and rather severe. Not unlike Chateau Potensac. Now it is starting to open up. It’s still solid, rather than fine, claret, but now a degree of succulence, rather lovely even. Still young though, oak and fruit a tad separate still.

As Anne said “oh yes a year ago this would have been a hard wine, but it hitting its stride now”.

Quality wine. It will be interesting to see what this chateau does in other vintages, both richer/riper ones, but also more classic black-current vintages.

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Syrah 2004 (review)

88+ points

Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia. 14%

Another dark, concentrated, young cool climate Shiraz but more approachable than Paringa Estate. Probably due to less new French oak. Also maybe due to being bottled with cork not screwcap. It’s quite an exciting Northern Rhone style with great intensity, and yet good balance. Also it doesn’t taste like a generic fruit bomb, but rather reflects its terroir, its interesting. The alcohol is in balance while the fruit is fine and ripe and savoury. While not really enjoyable drinking now I expect this wine to gain complexity as well as become more approachable with age. Great promise.

Paringa Estate ‘Estate Shiraz’ 2004

88 points

Mornington Penninsula, Victoria, Australia. 14.4%

paringa04.jpgBlueberry purple. Extremely concentrated young wine. I opened it, decanted it, took one sip and then put the wine back in the bottle for a day – it seemed very impressive but rather undrinkable. The next night it was still very hard to drink, we still have almost half a bottle.

Concentrated fruit, with lashings of charred French oak, and a fair bit of alcohol though the wine isn’t sweet and heavy on glycerol. Intense and, accounting for the fact that it is easy to taste the basic components of the wine, it is rather one dimensional.

This won best wine at the 2006 Sydney show taking out six trophies. James Halliday, Chairman of Judges, speaking at the presentation dinner, said “there has been a deliberate move away from the big heavily oaked blockbuster shirazes that dominated wine shows in the past to more balanced medium bodied wines that can often come from the cooler viticultural regions”.

Hmm, well I struggle to call this medium bodied (at 14.4% alcohol) though the wine does still show its cool climate roots in palate weight. The problem is the lack of drinkablity even with food. Wine is meant to be consumed not just tasted and awarded trophies. The back label says it can “be enjoyed young with food” which just isn’t true. So the real question is whether this wine will be great given another 5 years or so in bottle, or whether this “designed to withstand nuclear attack” style is just to stand out at wine shows, or is the only way to sell cool climate reds to the Australian palate ?

Hewitson Ned & Henry’s Shiraz 2002 (review)

88 points

Barossa Valley, South Australia. 14.5%

A sumptuous Barossa shiraz with a lovely little seam of green. Classy cool 2002 vintage wine. Very full bodied, rich and silky, nice French oak. This is a good example of new wave Barossa shiraz. If only it were a bit more savoury and slightly lower in alcohol it would be a much more drinkable and food friendly wine.

Chasse-Spleen vs GPL 2001

Chateau Chasse-Spleen 2001 Moulis en Medoc

Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2001 Pauillac

Chasse-Spleen has gorgeous aromas of cabernet and pencil-shaving, maybe it’s conditioning but this makes me hungry.  On the palate the wine is a bit harder, a touch of metal.  Very classic, food oriented wine.

The GPL (half bottle) was opened later, during the meal.  Obviously richer, fatter with more oak.  A bigger wine, higher alcohol.  More stuffing too.
Chasse-Spleen is the minor wine of the pair but I really enjoyed it.  I respect the style and authenticity.  It’s often a bit hard and minerally but served at the right temperature with the right food and it is a very classy wine.

Dominio De Tares “Cepas Viejas” 2001 (review)

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88+ points

Bierzo, Spain. 13%

It’s not everyday that I get to try a wine I’ve never tried before, from a region I’ve never tried before, and a grape variety I’ve never tired before – indeed I’d never even heard of this region or grape variety before. Wow ! Gives one hope that the wine world is still a long way from turning into lake of chardonnay.

Bierzo is in the North West of Spain, “a widening of the Sil River ringed by snowcapped peaks”, rather high altitude. There was supposed to be a rather large lake here once, but drained by the Romans to access mineral riches (ie gold).

Mencia is the local grape, and is the basis of this wine. Introduced by the Romans, and perhaps the precursor to Cabernet Franc (not that that thought gives much insight into what the wine tastes like). This is made from vines 60+ years old.

It’s still a dark fresh colour, reflecting the fine vintage in Spain. Distinctly Spanish styled (charred) American oak aromas, not vanillin old style Rioja but savoury Ribera Del Duero style. The palate is foreign, it’s slightly off-putting to try a totally unfamiiar grape variety, a little bit of one’s (evolutionary) brain says “perhaps something’s wrong”. It’s rich, brambly, savoury with a stamp of acid on the finish. Rather good, concentrated and elegant. Drinking with food now but possibly better in a couple of years time.