Ch√Ęteau Haut-Bages Monpelou 2002

86 points

Pauillac, Bordeaux, France. 13%

A Cab, Cab Franc blend that is surprisingly not fragrant, fresh or varietal – especially so given the vintage. A warm mellow rustic claret. Old fashioned, inexpensive.

I think it is a 2nd wine (of 5th growth Ch. Batailley) although the (lovely old fashioned) label doesn’t give any clues, to me at least.

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Chateau Haut-Cabut 2003

85 points

Premieres Cotes De Blaye, Bordeaux, France. 14.5%

This is a really odd wine in that it’s not obviously from 2003. It’s a somewhat weedy Bordeaux, pretty typical of a good quality minor wine. No baked characters at all, indeed the grapes aren’t physiologically ripe, though there is plenty of alcohol, and a fair bit of oak.

With a few years this will be better, never great or fine, but not jammy either.

Goes to show that some vineyard sites, or perhaps some price points, will always be vegetal. Or should I say usually – 2005 might be the exception.

Chateau d’Armailhac 2002

92 points

Pauillac, Bordeaux, France. 12.5%

This is a superb wine, really showing off the best of 2002, where the cabernet dominant areas did best. This wine has great purity of flavour, plenty of zesty energy, but also a richness that only the best wines of the vintage achieved. Haut Bages-Liberal, also a great wine, is in comparison harder and less expressive.

This is classic classed growth left bank claret, and should last 15 years easily. Special occasion wine, and in this context (it’s still not exactly cheap) a bit of a bargain.

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

88 points

South Australia, 14.5%

This is a multi-region blend most probably a mix of cooler regions in the South (eg Coonawarra, Pathaway) and warmer regions in the North (eg Barossa, McLaren Vale). It sounds ideal on paper, but seldom seems to work out so well in practice. But 2002 was a cool elegant year, particularly successful in the warmer regions and I thought this wine might really do well in this vintage.

And it is not a disappointment. An enjoyable sweetish blackberry and currant flavoured wine, with emphasis on impressive structure (balancing alcohol and acid, and tannin) rather than producing a complex food friendly wine. It still seems very young, but drinks quite well without food. There is some fairly overt slightly sweet oak. With more age the wine will become more mellow and old-fashioned big cabernet.

Good value (especially given it’s available retail at 5 years old). The current release 2004 should also be good.

Elderton Barossa Shiraz 1999

91 points

Barossa Valley, South Australia. 14.5%

Dark colour – throwing a bit of crust.

At around 6-8 years from vintage this wine starts to show more traditional characters of added acidity, greasepaint, and also lovely savoury (somewhat Spanish) character. It really is the optimum time to drink.

This was a particularly good bottle, better than several I bought from the winery a couple of years ago (odd as one would have thought they had excellent cellaring conditions).

Puriri Hills Reserve 2005

91+ points

Clevedon, Auckland, New Zealand. 13.5%

Another impressive 2005 wine from Puriri Hills. Again a merlot dominant “right bank’ bordeaux blend.

Lovely expressive nose, nice smoky aromas (the house style) and quite fragrant fruit.

The wine is a bit syrupy but I suspect that is not a bad thing on a wine so young. Certainly it is very concentrated.

I’ll give a proper evaluation of this wine when I taste it directly alongside some others, and with a few more months in bottle. But for now it appears to have lots of potential to be fine wine with ripeness, concentration and still nice acidity – good with food.

Puriri Hills 2005 Estate

90+ points

Clevedon, Auckland, New Zealand. 13.5%

Merlot dominant blend. Lovely dark shiny colour young, but not purple. Deep, tight, closed aromas with nice tough of herbaceousness and nice touch of warm oak.

Ripe burst of red currant fruit with savoury tarry edge. A smidge of burnt toffee, in a proper claret savoury style. This really is a very flash young wine, with a mid palate weight that makes the wine quite approachable in spite of its age. This might be similar in style to many 2005 Bordeaux, it has the fresh acids and perfectly ripe fruit of this great vintage.

Above this is a reserve wine and another super premium (the Pope) – which is very impresive given the quality of this wine !

Why are Puriri Hills releasing these 2005s when they still have several previous vintages for sale? I think it’s because they are so good. This is to put a stake in the ground and show what they are capable of. I’m sure they must be very proud of this vintage. It’s very impressive, I hope that there are more to come. A top wine for NZ and good value too.