Thornberry Merlot 2007

82 (+?) points

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. 14%

Dark, dense merlot plum nose.  Palate is very ripe, but short, with hard acid (surely added acid) finish.  This has had some rave reviews, and the price is very low, but I was disappointed – no charm, too extracted.  I have 11 more bottles so we shall see as it gains a little age, perhaps I am wrong.

Cape Mentelle Shiraz 2007

90++ points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 14%

A great wine in a great vintage. Much praised by Australian wine writers, who often make comparisons to the Rhone yet I find it very Australian. It certainly lacks the florality and acid of the Killerby 2001 tried recently. I expected more acid fullstop not that it’s really deficient. I’m buying a case or two because I have high hopes and the price is great.

Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2006

90 points

Martinborough, North Island, New Zealand. 13.5%

I was very impressed with this. Fresh juicy fruit with a savoury seam and smokey spicy oak (that for some reason I associate with Sth Africa). A touch sweet but not sickly and no obtrusive oak flavours. Very good for a well priced ‘2nd wine’ of this estate.

Drink now or wait a year or two. Should last another 5 years.

Killerby Shiraz 2001

92 points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 13.5%

Forest floor aromas on a wine that is dark red. The Brett is surprising for this producer but it’s part of the character. Otherwise there is some sweet tomato leaf up- front flavour and tart acid on the finish but then some long flavours. The mid palate is abut missing it’s true but the total package is refreshing and complex. More Cornas than Australia.

This bottle was pretty impressive. Western Australia, like Hawkes Bay, could be the Cabernet, Chardonnay, Shiraz all rounder for fine interesting wines.

Yarra Burn cellar release Shiraz 2003

89+ points

Yarra Valley, Victoria. 13.5%

Very dark. The first thing that hits on the nose is the added acidity which isn’t a pleasant welcome, but there is more to the wine than this. It’s intense, tight, but with weight, even some alcohol burn on the finish. OK this doesn’t sound wonderful but I do expect this to mature into a pretty characterful quality Australian shiraz. It’s a big wine made in a cool climate area in a very hot dry year. Keep until 2014 or more.

Wine protects you from heart attacks

I previously reported on a large study that found that wine had a beneficial effect on mortality due to heart disease, cancer and all causes.  That study was published in 2000, since then there has been further research including this meta-analysis of 26 studies that evaluated wine (and beer) consumption separately, i.e. not just total alcohol consumption.

It reports that the relative risk of vascular disease is 0.68 compared to non-drinkers, i.e. 68% of the risk that non-drinkers face.  This relative risk (RR) estimate is from a meta analysis of studies that controlled for social class and  other possible confounding factors.

Equally interesting was the attempt to model the dose response relationship, i.e. what is the recommended daily dose of wine.  The resulting model actually comes out at 750 mls per day (a bottle a day) as representing the lowest risk of heart disease!  Now a strong word of caution, the model is based on 7 studies (where a dose relationship could be worked out) and so could only achieve statistical significance for estimates up to 150 mls a day.  So put simply, drinking 50 mls a day is better than zero, drinking 100 mls a day is better still, drinking 150 mls a day is even better still….and this trend probably goes on for a while, maybe ‘peaking’ at 750 mls but that’s a bit of a guess, albeit a mathematically guided guess informed by the current research.  I highlight this not to recommend that everyone drinks a bottle a day but rather to highlight that many public health warnings are based on less well informed guesses plus a good deal of politics rather than the medical evidence.  Something which I’ve written on previously.

The epidemiological evidence is clear that some alcohol consumption, especially wine, reduces your risk of dying (particularly from heart disease).  This is especially true if you are middle aged, and don’t drink and drive.  There’s clear evidence that a bit more wine (possibly due more to regularity of consumption rather than drinking more at one sitting) is better for you.  At the other end of the spectrum very high alcohol consumption is associated with greater risk of dying.  So there has to be a point where the level of alcohol consumption stop lowering your risk and it starts increasing, and a consumption level where the risk of death is higher than non-drinkers but there is not sufficient evidence to pinpoint this ‘recommended daily dose’.  Not surprisingly the health warning indsutry errs on the conservative side, they probably fear that if they tell people “no more than 4 drinks a day” then many people will actually have quite a few more.

Again then, public health guidelines should be taken by intelligent people as guidelines only.  The medical evidence continues to be rather positive about non-binge wine consumption.

References:

Castelneuvo et al (2002) “Meta-Analysis of Wine and Beer Consumption in Relation to Vascular Risk”, Circulation (the journal of the American Heart Association), Vol.105, p.2836-2844.

Claret tasting at Narelle and Frank’s

Chateau Puygueraud (Cotes De Francs) 2004
Serafino (McLaren Vale) CabSav 2006
Chateau Haut-Madrac (Haut-Medoc) 2006
Chateau Beau-Site (St.Estephe) 2005
Grand Vin de Bernadotte (Haut Medoc) 2005
Brooklands Valley Verse 1 Cab Merlot (Margaret River) 2007
Clos Floridene (Graves) 2005
Chateau Les Trois Croix (Fronsac) 2005
Distell Merlot (South Africa) 2002
Chateau Les Trois Croix (Fronsac) 2004
Grosset Gaia (Clare Valley) 2004
Te Mata Estate Awatea (Hawkes Bay) 2005
Chateau Cos Labory (St.Estephe) 2003

Some were better than others but all were good (which is unusual for a tasting).  Read on if your interested in some personal notes…

Chateau Puygueraud (Cotes De Francs) 2004
– simple fresh somewhat tannic Bordeaux, savoury but surprisingly closed, unexpressive and lacking florality for the vintage and unusual for Puygueraud.

Serafino (McLaren Vale) CabSav 2006
– sweet mint toffee oak, sweet alcoholic, young disjointed and a quite a bit dolled up with oak and acid.

Chateau Haut-Madrac (Haut-Medoc) 2006
– classic cabernet blackcurrent flavours, very fresh with clear acid spine.  A modern minor Bordeaux.  Nice wine for drinking over the next few years.  Better than I’d have expected for the vintage and price level.  Good discovery.

Chateau Beau-Site (St.Estephe) 2005
– dense 4-square claret, savoury and tannic, plenty of extract, but muted flavour and nose (cork influence ?)

Grand Vin de Bernadotte (Haut Medoc) 2005
– another dense young claret, good structure but rather closed, hard to assess.

Brooklands Valley Verse 1 Cab Merlot (Margaret River) 2007
– expressive aromas including some tobacco, quite attactive and appetizing.  Palate is a slight disappointment in comparison – sweetish, well balanced, but not complex.  Halliday likes this sort of thing, he’s too impressed by winemaking over terroir and character.

Clos Floridene (Graves) 2005
– polarised the audience, depending on tolerance of reductive (sulphide) characters.  Lovely gentle but rich open wine.  Good flavour and balance, sensual rather than intellectual.  Perfect cafe wine, good drinking for 5 years, no need to cellar.

Chateau Les Trois Croix (Fronsac) 2005
– big dense, plummy fruitcake, very much a right-bank Merlot from a good vintage.  Ripe soft tannins.  Attractive now with the capacity to gain complexity for 5 years and last for 10+.
“Good full ruby. Sexy dark fruits, leather, smoked meat and earth on the nose. Silky and suave in the mouth, with good chewy depth of fruit. Layered, sweet and interesting. Finishes with sweet tannins and very good length. An excellent showing for this Fronsac property owned by the family of ex-Mouton Rothschild winemaker Patrick Leon.” 87-90 points
Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar, May/June 2006

Distell Merlot (South Africa) 2002
– an interesting comparison, commercial New World merlot, aromas of tomato leaf, flavours of cherry tomatoes.  Out of its class here.

Chateau Les Trois Croix (Fronsac) 2004
– less weighty and ripe than the 2005, without deep fruitcake characters, but nice freshness, and it will gain complexity.  Nicely shows the difference between the 2004 and 2005 vintage, both good but 2005 can produce exceptional ripeness.

Grosset Gaia (Clare Valley) 2004
– pristine wine making, clear as a bell fruit.  Lovely elegance but for the price it lacks stuffing and complexity, the fruit is simple showing a good deal of New World Merlot cherry tomato flavours.  Maybe this wine will develops complexity age but I don’t have a lot of faith in it.  I like elegant wines but I’m not in sync with James Halliday here.  I feel he overrates clinical winemaker wines and he rates it highly (same score as the Brooklands above)
From the first vintage, in 1989, Grosset Gaia has stood apart from mainstream Clare Valley style thanks to its extra degree of finesse.  This has been achieved without any diminution in flavour or varietal typicity; if this were not enough, it has also been a model of consistency in quality terms.  (No surprise here, as it applies to all of Grosset’s wines.)  Bright and clear purple-red, the 2004 Gaia (94 Points, $53) is on the light end of medium-bodied.  It is very fresh (only 13.5 per cent alcohol and, given Grosset’s disdain of cork, sealed with a screwcap) and harmonious with fruit, oak and tannins precisely fashioned and balanced.  It will live far longer than one may imagine, most probably showing no hint of tiredness before 2030, which is no reason not to open a bottle tonight.

Te Mata Estate Awatea (Hawkes Bay) 2005
– ripe but surprisingly closed, except on the finish where it shows class, an elegant wine in a ripe vintage, very Bordeaux-like.
This is quite possibly the best Awatea this stalwart has released to date. Classic Bordeaux-like style with regional Hawkes Bay gravel and ripe cassis fruits, some floral notes too. Terrific density and glide through the palate, savoury liquorice, really intense ripe berry fruits and a polished trail of fine tannins through the finish. Superb! 94/100″
– Nick Stock, Wine Business Magazine, June 2008

Chateau Cos Labory (St.Estephe) 2003
– odd jumble of aromas, with stewed ripe fruit overlying the more classic herbal berry Cabernet characters.  A wine that shows the character of the super hot 2003 vintage in Bordeaux.  Dry chocolate tannins.  Like a dry, non-syrupy, version of a modern souped up Napa Valley cabernet.  But it’s still characterful, lots of flavour, it just lacks the refreshing quality that Bordeaux should have.  Drink now, or age it into a leathery wine.

Bernard Faurie Saint Joseph 2005

89+ points

Gosh this is still a baby. Very fresh almost floral. This is a wine of pristine fruit not oak flavour or influence. I don’t like the really overt florality it shows at the moment (Viogner?) best left until 2013 at the earliest.

2012 April UPDATE – medium bodied but tannic, with youthful acid still.  Quite serious stuff.