Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Dry Red 1991

90 points

Hunter Valley, NSW. 12.4%

I bought a few bottles at auction as a gamble. I found a few negative reviews online so was expecting faulty wine but the level of fill wa excellent, colour was surprisingly dark, aroma clean attractive complex aged. A lovely old wine, still quite fresh, a gentle elegant savoury shiraz.

Great historic wine label too.

20111225-145857.jpg

20111225-145953.jpg

Cambridge Road Syrah 2008

84 points

Martinborough, NZ. 13%

I was apprehensive about opening such a young wine but needn’t have been, it’s a soft gentle approachable wine.

Black pepper and dilute fruit on the nose continues on the palate. Very much a floral Pinot sort of style of shiraz, indeed the blend contains 9% Pinot Noir.

Geoff Kelly is a big advocate of NZ syrah, and quite down on hot climate shiraz. I have some sympathy for his advocacy and I prefer the more elegant Kiwi shiraz to some of the over extracted superbombs they have sometimes tried to make. NZ shouldn’t seek to emulate McLaren Vale but this wine goes too far, it reminds me of supermarket Crozes Hermitage but at 5 times the price. Bernard Faurie’s St Joseph 2005 tasted alongside has lots more stuffing, more acid, and seems years younger (not 3 years older).

Drink now.

20111224-105048.jpg

My personal wines of the year 2011

The wine that has given me greatest pleasure, over and over, this year has been Chateau Cantemerle 1996.  It’s a classy wine.  A reminder of what Bordeaux is really all about, which isn’t inky 14% powerhouse wines that garner high point scores when critics taste them before they are even bottled.

Now I’m an old-fashioned sort of guy, I enjoy claret, Champagne, Madeira, old Northern Rhones – actually always older wine rather than younger, but one of the most impressive intruiging wines I’ve enjoyed this year is Yalumba Signature Cabernet/Shiraz 2006.  A wine with a long history, in a perfect vintage for this Barossa blend.

Champagne wise Lamandier-Berneir terre de vertus remains a firm favourite.

One of the most under-rated white wines in the world continues to be Muscadet from the Loire where 2009 produced some great wines for enjoying now.  And also from the Loire this was very impressive – if too youthful to truly enjoy yet.

And a special mention should go to Australian Chardonnay which is excelling itself lately.  Complex, restrained, single vineyard cool climate Chardonnay with alcohol of 12.5% – that’s not what people think of when they think of Australian Chardonnay, it just goes to show what innovation there still is in the wine industry.

Te Mata Bullnose 2007, Clonakilla O’Riada 2007 and Turkey Flat Shiraz 2007

Three excellent modern, French oaked Syrah/Shiraz from the 2007 vintage. Young wines but now with 4 years in bottle.

The common varietal and age is very apparent. They all show excellent youthful deep colour. None of these wines reek of oak and they are all very clean.

The Bullnose is more savoury. The Clonakilla is slightly sherbity in comparison (in a way that some young Rhone wines can be in really ripe vintages). The Turkey Flat is sweeter still but in a fruit ripeness sense not actual sugar.

Alcohols = 13%, 14%, 14.5% respectively.

The hotter climate Turkey Flat is slightly less floral and clearly has riper flavours (a touch of fruit cake) yet it is pleasantly fresh for a Barossa wine amongst this cool climate company.

And at the other end of the spectrum the Te Mata Bullnose is not marred by any vegetal flavours. It’s the best on the night. Although the Turkey Flat is the most different in this company I’d place it second.

3 very good wines. The differences between them are fascinating. They share in common that they are reasonably priced (until their fame grows).

Huet Le Mont Vouvray 1995

89 points

Loire, France. 12%. Sec.

Golden colour of course. A honied aged dry Vouvray but with an astringent acid spine. Not full bodied. Flavoursome complex. Despite the lovely weight and charm the acid makes it best enjoyed with food. It has charm but with never be luscious.

UPDATE. Some bottles better than others. One had nice creamy luciousness. 91 points.

20111217-144332.jpg

Domaine De Chevalier 1996

91 points

Graves, Bordeaux, France. 12%

Bold colour still. Complex aged aromas. Palate is firm and quite structured still. Brett levels are a bit obvious.

Nice gentle weight.  Very dry savoury wine.  Needs careful matching with food because any sweetness can overpower it,  also that brett is a tiny bit annoying.  Good with savoury salty food.

I feel that this should be consumed now.  While the colour and structure is still good it is losing fruit sweetness and a touch of vinegar is creeping in.

20111212-161636.jpg

Houghton Classic White 2004

90 points

Western Australia. 13.5%

I had an oxidised bottle of this and a disappointing 2006 recently, but this particular bottle of 2004 is great. Some oxidation but only enough to add some complexity. Very rich soft wine, with a ripe sweet finish. Intriguing style.

An Aussie classic that few have ever tried. Aged that is.

Ashton Hills Pinot Noir (Estate) 2008

88 points.

Adelaide Hills. 14.5%

A rich seductive pinot. Lightish in colour. Warm slightly spiced aromas of fruit and French oak (which the fruit just sops up).

James Haliday gave this something like 95 points. Now those points are for an Australian audience but even so I’m less enthusiastic. I prefer a less sweet and alcoholic Pinot.

I recall Jancis Robinson on a visit to Australia praising a Coldstream Hills Pinot that was 12.8% alcohol and saying Pinot isn’t Grenache.

Drink now.

20111206-080311.jpg

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Release Chardonnay 2008

87+ points

Yarra Valley, Victoria. 12%

I was pretty excited about this wine’s 12% alcohol, while that does sound very low for Chardonnay it represents the extraordinary innovation in Australia.

De Bortoli’s winemaker Steve Webber is an exponent of not adding acid or using new oak, of seeking minerality of cool climate fruit and never picking late.

But this doesn’t just seem restrained, it lacks flavour, and vivacity. There are more exciting cool climate low alcohol Chardonnays like Seppelt Jaluka.

Leave for a year and see if it starts to blossom.

20111202-215633.jpg

Stella Bella Shiraz 2007 cf Turkey Flat Shiraz 2007

A fascinating comparison. I expected the Turkey Flat to taste much more ‘hot climate’ than it did paired against the Stella Bella from Margaret River.

Both French oaked, very well made modern wines. Both under screwcap. They smell and taste like cousins. The Stella Bella is, as expected, slightly more fragrant. The Turkey Flat is the more complete satisfying wine and so, surprising for its age, better drinking now – and also in the long run too I expect. But the Stella Bella is still a very fine wine. The similarity in flavours is remarkable.

2007 was a near perfect dry warm vintage in Margaret River. In the Barossa it was difficult, a frost hit, concentrated hot dry vintage was hit with a huge downpour of rain in mid January which caused splitting. Turkey Flat did remarkably well.

90 points Stella Bella
91 points Turkey Flat

20111202-184044.jpg

20111202-184150.jpg