12.5% Australian Pinot Noir

I see that newly released Domaine Chandon’s Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2012 is a mere 12.5% alcohol.  It reminds me that Coldstream Hills, back in the days when James Halliday owned it, produced some Pinots of 12.5% alcohol.  And I recall Jancis Robinson reviewing them positively and noting the low alcohol with a statement along the lines of “good on them, Pinot Noir isn’t Grenache”.

I’d encourage a few Kiwi winemakers to take note.  There are quite a few 14%+ fruit bomb Pinots coming out from the South Island.  They remind me of young Australian Sparkling Shiraz without the sparkle.


Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 9 shiraz 1997

92 points

Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia. 12.8%

One bottle was partially oxidised. This review is of the 2nd. Both had crumbly corks but the better bottle had better fill.

Warm, deep red flavours, quite a lot of fruit sweetness. Smooth and rich but not cloying. Food friendly.

A bit more spice, even a touch of greeness would have really made thus wine. But then I can hardly accuse them of picking too ripe at a mere 12.8%. Fascinating wine.

Might have lived another decade under screwcap.



Sandalford estate reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

88 points

Margaret River, Western Australia. 14.5%

This is a very good wine but I’m marking it down a few points because it’s just a bit to showy. The oak is obtrusive, dry and a bit raspy. And the alcohol is too high. I know it is young but I have major doubts that this will properly knit together, at least into something fine.

So breathe the wine now and enjoy it young as a showy wine. Nice flavours even if it lacks mid palate density.


Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz 2004

90++ points

Hunter Valley,NSW, Australia. 12.5%

Concentrated wine with youthful acidity and oak. On a frame of only 12.5% alcohol – a long way from being a syrupy blockbuster. Tremendous potential.

Savoury complex shiraz without the floral aspects of cool climate shiraz nor any of the pruney aspects of warm climate shiraz. Like Hermitage in a good year!


Craggy Range Le Sol shiraz 2007

90+ points

Craggy Range, Hawkes Bay, NZ. 14%

Quite a sophisticated show pony. Well judged expensive oak frames silky cool climate shiraz. It’s good.

I just fear that it seems to lack character. Perhaps with age?

And I find the price a bit disconcerting. This is exciting cool climate shiraz but it has a number of Australian competitors now. It stands out for sophistication but some of its competitors have pedigree, distinctiveness, regional character and/or price advantages.


Pittnauer St Laurent 2009

88+ Points

Burgenland Austria. 12.5%

I thought that this was Pinot. But apparently the grape is St Laurent, which is like Pinot, but (being Austrian) very dark cherry-like. Very enjoyable though young. Of course I have no experience with aging. It’s fresh tasty, nothing over-worked. So my advice is enjoy now.


Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Hunter Shiraz 2000

91+ points

Hunter Valley,Australia. 13%

Seems odd to put a plus sign (for extra potential) on a wine already almost 14 years old but this has a way to go. Aged complexity is emerging, but there is plenty of fruit sweetness, almost too much. Otherwise it has nice restraint.

Lovely aromas. Inviting. Varietal. Not masked by oak.


Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2010

90+ points

Adelaide Hills, South Australia. 14%

Gosh. This is so like a Northern Rhone, a Cote-Rotie, without the sinew or tannin of a Hermitage. Quite beautiful and floral.

I’m not good at judging young cool climate shiraz. In fact I don’t usually like it while it has this flush of youthful, floral fruit. But this is good after a good breathing.

Worth watching over the next decade or so.


McWilliams Mount Pleasant O.P & O.H. Hermitage 1967

89 points

Hunter Valley, Australia. Unknown alcohol level probably 13% or lower.

Yes a real mueseum wine with fabulous old label. Fill level was down to just below top shoulder, not alarming for a wine of 46 years.

From “the old paddock” and “the old hill”.

Quite good darkish colour.

Clear nose, very old.

Possibly the most savoury dry wine I’ve ever had. All fruit sweetness has dried up. Surprisingly there seems to be some lingering oak flavour. With food this was quite good. Nice weight. Interesting aged flavours. The next bottle which has better fill might even be better?


De Iulis steven vineyard shiraz 2009

92+ points

Hunter Valley, Australia. 13%

Top wines are marked not just by their concentration of flavour but by their wonderful balance. This wine is beautiful young, pristine shiraz, totally effortless nothing forced, everything nicely in place, including moderate alcohol.

Needless to say this is attractive drinking now but it really is a waste the flavours are still youthful and primary. The rewards of cellaring should be great.


Chateau Palmer 2004

90++ points

Margaux. 13%

Weird wine. At first it seemed disappointly lacking concentration with tannin, acid and oak dominating fruit. Then with food it transformed with aged oaky flavours coming forward. Soon as the food was gone it went back to being ordinary.

The next night the difference with food was less extreme.

I suspect this will be best in 10 more years. But it’s a risky bet.


Chateau Rauzan-Despagne Reserve 2010

88+ points

Bordeaux. 13.5%

Probably deserves even higher points given its low price. It’s normally impossible to find decent claret even in Bordeaux for under 10 euro. This was only 8 euro.

Note this is not the Grand Vin but their cheaper ‘Reserve’.

Modern, very clean, fresh, not souped up. Got better over a few nights. Cherry fruit, of the vintage or just its youth?


Chateau Pédesclaux 2009

94+ points

Pauillac. 13% (on the label but very likely higher)

I thought I had reviewed this but in checking I see I haven’t. I have tried this many times, it never fails to impress. When I first tried it in 2012 I was amazed that such a concentrated young wine could be so approachable. I called it “Pomerol comes to Pauillac” which is sort of true.

It’s an oddity, but not that odd. What it clearly is is very good. A wine to challenge first growths for a fraction of the price.

This is the sort of wine I always imagined that California at its best could produce. Sadly I’ve not seen this, maybe they can?

So this has the flavour. Does it have the balance to turn into something ethereal and fine? Time will tell. I think it will turn out very well, but (strangely for Bordeaux) I’m not super interested it’s that good already!


Chateau Pédesclaux 2010

89+ points

Pauillac. 13% (most likely higher)

Tasted alongside the 2009 over several evenings there is some similarity, the house style but they are very different vintages. 2010 is supposed to be more classic, but very tannic and concentrated. That’s not how this seemed. It’s certainly less forward, less flamboyant, but also lighter.

The 2009 you’d think wouldn’t be my style but the sheer quality bowls me over. It’s top classed growth quality. 2010 Pedesclaux doesn’t seem in the same league. It reminds me a bit of 2009 Ch.Chantermerle, which is very very good for its price but no giant slayer.


Chateau Baron de Pichon- Longueville 2002

91+ points

Pauillac. 13.5%

Very interesting wine. Classy. Showing both house style and the distictiveness of the vintage. It’s quite bold, ripe, with a fair degree of oak. It’s not herbaceous yet there is a seam of vegetal tone. 2002 was a good cabernet year but nothing like the ripe vintages of 2005 or 2009. And it’s not so pretty and fresh as 2004. It’s quite serious but not austere. Long life still ahead.


Mauro Guicheney I 2011

88 points

Duras, France. 13.5%. Organic.

This wine of the Sud-Ouest is a fresh, rich wine with plenty of ripe tannins. Claims to have had 9 months in oak but fortunately must have been old oak.

Surprisingly ripe for the wet cold Summer I experienced in Bordeaux. I guess the sun really did come out in September.

This Merlot dominant wine is sufficiently open to drink now. In fact I’d recommend drinking over the next 3 years.