Chateau Du Tertre 2002 Margaux, Bordeaux, France 89 points 13%
Nepenthe The Fugue 2002, Adelaide Hills, Australia, 78 points 14%.
OK the points give the game away, this was not a contest. The Du Tertre is gloriously fragrant in spite of a little bit of brett, lovely fruit and pencil shavings oak. The Fugue is stewed plums and sugar and esters. Fortunately The Fugue is a little easier to drink than suggested on the nose, but it is simple, flat and sweet and completely out of the class suggested by the back label. It is a bordeaux blend by a top class winery in the Adelaide Hills in a lovely cool vintage – in this context the result is rather horrific.
Australia has struggled with Merlot (42% here) and this wine doesn’t help our reputation. Now this wine wasn’t sold at a high price given that this is supposed to be their top wine, and it was discounted in store, and it was extra good value considering that it is 6 year old – all of which says the market knows this is poor. Nepenthe should have pulled it off shelves and at least sold it off under a different label.
2008 means that wines from the 2002 vintage have passed the magical 6 year mark. I reckon that it’s around this time that mid-range (e.g. $20-$30) quality Australian red wines start to garner some real complexity, losing their primary fruitiness.
The natural acidity of the wonderfully cool 2002 may make this vintage a bit of an exception, but then there is always 2001, and both of these vintages can still be seen on retail shelves.
More recent vintages get all the more prominent shelf positions because these are the wines wine writers are currently featuring. But look out for good 2001 and 2002 bottles. Why would anyone want to buy a 2005 or 2006 vintage wine when there are good 2002 wines still available ?
An example is Tatachilla Foundation Shiraz 2002 which has just won the 2007 Great Australian Shiraz challenge. Although this wine needs more than 6 years, it is still somewhat amazing that you can still buy it.
PS Taylor’s St Andrew Shiraz 2002 scored within a fraction of the Tatachilla and it too is available.
PPS Red Nectar 2005 came 24th (out of 416 wines) – a good showing.
Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy. 13.5%
Bought off retail shelves in 2007 which explains the excessive oxidation for a 12 year old wine. But the fruit is still there, sweet and slightly caramel, perhaps due to the oxidation. Grapey acidity keeps the wine alive, very much an Italian (and Nebbiolo) character.
Not worth the money, but interesting.
South Australia. 14.5%
St. Henri is very much a warm climate, Barossa oriented, wine yet it strives for elegance. It’s well known as a restrained wine, taking some years to build flavour. It’s quite different from other wines in the Penfolds stable such as Grange.
St Henri is supposed to be matured only in old oak, with the aim for oak influence rather than flavour, but there is noticeable oak on this vintage. It’s also 14.5%, making it harder to achieve elegance.
It’s a good wine, but more typical Penfolds, big, deep, and more forward than usual. Perhaps reflecting a change in winemaking style, or perhaps a reaction to the unusually hot 2003 vintage.
St Julien, Bordeaux, France. 12.5%
Classic very intense berry Cabernet, Pauillac style. There is quite a bit of depth to this wine, it’s some way off from really hitting its stride – it doesn’t seem like a 6 year old. Personally I like my claret a little more pretty than this, it’s strong and intense rather than fragrant and suave. Needs time, another 3-6 years.
Rioja, Spain. 13.5%
I found this a little hard to assess. It’s still young and rather closed. It’s not traditional with dollaps of American oak, nor does it apear to be going for the modern extracted style (promoted by some US wine writers). It’s a serious wine, but a little hard for me to get my head/tastebuds around at present. If I were at home, assessing it in familiar surrounding, proper glasses etc it might be easier.
Hermitage, Rhone, France 13%
Slightly floral notes on the nose – this would have been a very floral wine in its youth I think, perhaps Grenache like tones.
First impression is classic warm shiraz flavours, but lightish, somewhat dilute and soft. Yet is stands up to food and after a few glasses comes across as a rather strongly flavoured wine, though in no way alcoholic, big, syrupy or even concentrated.
This wine (bought in USA) was not as profound as the 1999 (bought in France).
Napa Valley, California, 14.2%
Deep, ripe almost burnt aromas. Quite hard, fruit pastille, flavours up front, with a bit of juiciness saving things on the finish.
Not bad, but not fine either. A bit disappointing.
Alexander Valley, California. 13.5%
Pungent, almost volatile berry aromas. Not surprisingly the palate is quite raw, very red current and maybe blackberry. A bit showy in the sense of being very varietal. Somewhat mouth pucking acidity.
Interesting, but I wouldn’t want to buy it again.
Medoc, France. 13.5% 70% Merlot/ 30% Cabernet.
A very stylish Cru Bourgeois. In 2003 this is like a very good St.Emilion or Pomerol, with amazing ripeness of Merlot. Nice core of fruit without any syrupy sweetness. Well judged coffee-ish oak, again no overt sweetness. Plenty of soft ripe tannins.
Very attractive, early drinking wine, that should age for a long while too – but no need for this.
Jan 2012 update – (5 years later) nice wine, 2003 warm style without fleshy fruit mid-palate. Drink now, heading downhill. In comparison the 2005 seems 5+ years younger.
Tasted against a bottle of 2000 Petaluma this featured glorious Riesling aromas while the Petaluma, a victim of its cork and bad storage (premature oxidation) was like honey in dishwater.
Classic Riesling with a gentle touch of sweetness. Moreish, with strength of flavour to stand up to some foods, without being an aggressive limey dry style.
Pauillac, Bordeaux, France. 13%
Gorgeous aromas, fresh, quite deep and ripe. The palate is a more open knit and less deep than suggested. Nice wine though, nicely balanced with fresh acids. I suspect this will fill out a bit with a few more years of age, hence the potential for higher point score.