Terrior Australia

There are some interesting patterns in the 2009 James Halliday Australian Wine Companion. It rates 5778 wines, and an arrangement of the best wines by variety (page 14) shows clear, even stark, regional specialization.

Riesling – Clare & Eden Valleys, Great Southern (in WA), and Tasmania. Cool nights seem essential for Riesling.

Chardonnay – Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, and Adelaide Hills.

Semillon – pretty much completely dominated by the Hunter Valley.

Sauvignon Blanc – Adelaide Hills.

Sauvignon/Semillon blends – Margaret River.

Sparkling – Tasmania.

Pinot Noir – Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania, Yarra Valley.

Shiraz – Barossa, McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley, Grampians, and Heathcote.
Shiraz Viognier blends – Canberra, Yarra Valley.

Cabernet Sauvignon – Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra. The importance of maritime influence shows here. Particularly in the surprisingly good showing by the rather hot (but still next to the sea) McLaren Vale.

Shiraz and shiraz blends are Australia’s super strength. The world market seems to share this opinion, and Halliday’s ratings concur. But outside of the shiraz powerhouses of Barossa and McLaren there are many other regions producing high quality wines from other varieties, also the Shiraz from other regions is quite different in style.

It’s true that many Australian wines are blends though in reality these blends often come from the same selection of vineyards each year. And very few serious wines are regional blends. The trend continues to be for regions to specialize on the grape varieties they are best at. We are also seeing distinct regional winemaking styles emerge.

So the New World is beginning to look more and more like the Old World – and vice versa as they continue to learn from one another.

Henschke Mount Edelstone Shiraz 1999

90 points

Eden Valley, South Australia. 14.4%

I’d hoped for more, hence the modest points for a wine of this age and pedigree.

On a positive note, I like the restraint (for what is essentially a strapping Barossa shiraz) and elegance, the acid balance is appropriate and it doesn’t taste dosed up with added acidity (though I suspect there is some).  However the vegetal aromas, and green tannins go too far.  I don’t mind some greenness, though I prefer a distinct spectrum (fresh herbaceous, not as fresh as minty, nor in the other direction asparagus or rotting vegetation).  Also, on a wine like this some green adds character, and can be accomodated, but here there is too much.  Actually I’m surprised there is much at all; wines on the valley floor from this vintage are dense, concentrated, and while in no way super ripe they are physiologically ripe.  And at 14.4% alcohol you’d hope for physiological ripeness.

Click here for reviews of other Henschke wines.

Leasingham Classic Clare Shiraz 1998

88 points

Clare Valley, South Australia. 14%

I’m not giving this a high mark given its age.  It features rather classic (‘old school’) aromas of grease-paint which are due to rather heavy handed addition of tartaric acid.  There is a nice core of sweet fruit, but it mingles with a bit of oxidation and that tartaric acid to create a slight tomato sauce flavour.

This won the Stodart Trophy which is awarded at teh Brisbane Show for best one year old red.  Yet oddly doesn’t fetch high prices at auction.  It appears that the market knows that this was a wine that showed exceptionally well at 1 year old.

Click here for other reviews of Leasingham wines.

Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2006

77 points

Cederberg, South Africa. 13.5%

Nothing like a Loire Chenin nor did I expect it to be South African Chenin is different. Exactly what it is isn’t really clear at present. It’s unfashionable but still made because there are plantings, some customers, and some winemakers who want to really make something of it.

I think they should be aiming for lowish alcohol. Not weighty-ish wines like this. It lacks delicacy and charm but hasn’t achieved flavour and character. It’s not the quality warm climate Chenin of Australia’s Houghton Classic nor is it veering towards the LoireFrance. It’s just a bit clumsy. But then it isvsry cheap.

Gran Fontal vendimia seleccionada 2004

85 points

Castilla, Spain. 13.5%

Dark shiny modern wine. Stylistically like some Australian Shiraz with dark cherry fruit and a touch of American oak, short sharp tannic acid finish. Lacks character to lift it into the really fine class, but would be a popular wine above the normal commercial crowd. I can see why Australia sees Spain as a serious competitor and a rising one.

Magie du Chateau Mouleyre 2005

91 points

Cadillac, Bordeaux, France. 13.5%

A sweet wine from the Bernard Magrez stable. I’m not a fan of his steroid dulled reds but this is luscious. A low acid custard creme sauterne. And I don’t want to give the impression that this is a simple commercial wine, it’s quality sauterne but in a freak super accessible vintage. A very useful sweet vintage I shall look out for 2005 whenever I have to drink young sauternes.

Jean-Louis Chave Saint-Joseph 2005

87-94 points

St. Joseph, Northern Rhône, France. 13.8%

Staggeringly young wine, yet without the lolly-like characters that young Shiraz often exhibits. This is very deep without being baked or extracted in the slightest. Dense fruit and oak.

Anne thought it disgusting – and this is someone who can brave the youngest of Clare shiraz.

I suspect this wine will be marvelous but give it 10 years first.

Pavillion Rouge 2004

90-93 points

Margaux, Bordeaux, France. 13%

2nd wine of Chateau Margaux.

Wow.  I really wasn’t expecting this.  Such virtuosity.  This has real breed, good concentration but with real finesse.  It’s so poised and restrained with pitch perfect tannins on the finish.

It’s sort of showy, in a non-showy way if you know what I mean – one can’t help thinking about the quality of the production when tasting it.

I really have to change my perception of ‘2nd wines’.  The only problem with this is the price.  It’s now 3 times as expensive as well performing classed growths like 2004 Ferriere or Du Tertre.  It wasn’t this price when first released.

Alter Ego de Chateau Palmer 2004

91+ points

Margaux, Bordeaux, France. 13%

I was first struck by the warm coffee-latte oak and suspected an opulent but perhaps open knit more commerical style, which I think is a perfectly acceptable style to go for in a 2nd wine. However, there is a good deal more to this wine than that. It’s study and deep, even somewhat severe. I worry that the tannins are a little green, but it’s early days to assess this.

The 2nd wines of the Bordeaux’s top producers do seem to be rather impressive. I’ve ignored them for years, yet they are quarter or even a 5th the price of their Grand Vin big brothers and they seem often competitive against similarly priced wines.

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Domaine Armand Rousseau Mazy Chamberlin 1996

91 points

Mazy-Chamberlin, Burgundy, France. 13%

A fine old Burgundy. I’m not really qualified to speak but I would doubt there would be any value in keeping this any longer and would be surprised if it lasted for more than 5 more years, but then again I’ve learnt that the aging trajectory of Burgundy is nothing like the short arc of New World Pinot Noir.

Warm moderately rich (drying out a bit?) mid palate with long firm acidity – the acid being a characteristic of the vintage. I don’t mind this acid finish, especially with food.

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Haute Coutume Schistes de Tremoine 2000

84 points

Cotes du Roussillon Villages. 13%

Sold in a rather pointless wooden box I bought this wine in a French supermarket for about $15. The box being supposed to signal quality but I think it actually puts most people off buying it.
70% Syrah 20% Carignan 10% Grenache.

It is a warm soft wine. A bit lacking in character. Worth looking out for future vintages if the pricing stays low.

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