Wednesday, 14 May 2008

General, 11 May 2008

Three wines with dinner and a fortified wine afterwards.

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Rose 2006, Marlborough, NZ
Oddbins - £8 A-

Wonderfully fruity nose, full of raspberry and strawberry goodness; the palate is fresh, clean and leaves you wanting more really. It is quite alcoholic at 13%, but it still feels light and nimble on the palate, especially if you have it slightly chilled; the colour doesnt hurt either, a deep pink hue means its not only pretty to look at, but it also has substance and structure behind the wine. Not completely dry, some residual sugar balances the soft acidity. I cannot for the life of me find any fault with this wine; it wont keep perhaps, but rose isnt supposed to keep in any case. Drink slighty chilled with light food, think poached salmon salad with light vinaigrette dressing.

Was had with: Gazpacho (cold tomato based-soup, description can be found here). Complemented the soup really well; the acidity and sweetness was just right.
Independent adjudicator: 8.5/10. They loved it too.

Tenuta del Portale, Aglianico del Vulture DOC 2004, Basilicata, Italy
BBR - £10 B

Nose doesnt give much joy, seems rather closed when tasted. Palate was of light berries and cherries, slowly developing into cranberries at the end. The notable feature was the silky and supple tannins, much in the style of proper Margaux; mind you theres still enough structure in there for it to accompany anything but the most hearty of foods. Its a pleasant enough wine, glad I tasted it; but unfortunately, not one which I would buy again.

Was had with: Roast pork, crackling and apple sauce with mashed potatoes and sauteed provence-style vegetables. Went alright, could've been better.
Independent adjudicator: 7.5/10 (I think they're being generous here, or maybe its the 14% abv talking)

Campbells Rutherglen Muscat NV, Victoria, AU
Oddbins - £9 B-

Bought this because it won Decanter Gold and I cannot see why. It was incredibly sweet: I wouldnt stop short of saying that it was like drinking concentrated solution of brown sugar, like drinking alcoholic raisin juice (yes raisin, not grape). Funnily, it did have osrt of a bitter finish, like marmalade? I wouldnt be surprised if sugars were near the 200g/l mark. The nose only smelled of raisins and molasses. Mouthfeel was unbalanced, the cloying sweetnesss dominated on the palate with hardly any acidity to speak of, maybe it got scared off by the sugars, I dont know. And for the price, I would get BBR's Own Sauternes made by Ch Suduiraut any day. I really disapproved of this; read the winemakers comments here. Or better still, buy a bottle in your local Oddbins and leave me a note. I could however, imagine this as a sauce to drizzle over ice cream / waffles / pancakes; who needs syrup?

Was had with: Rasberry mousse. The desert felt light and refreshing compared to the wine; just downright wrong.
Independent adjudicator: 7.25 (again, being polite; or the 17.5% abv?)

Graf Hardegg 'Forticus' Port style Merlot 2000, Blauburger, Austria
NYW - £13 (bin end sale) B+

Fruit dominated, cherries and strawberries; very unusual style. It has the restrained, firm tannins like port but none of the associated licorice / blackcurrant nose. This had a lighter nose than most tawnies, let alone vintage port. Very unusual and yet so drinkable; I dont think it would go with sweet deserts just because it lacks the sugar; but with cheeses perhaps?

Saturday, 10 May 2008

CUWS Easter 2008 - Regional Australian

CUWS Easter 2008 - Regional Australian
Peterhouse Upper Hall, 6 May 2008

A tasting held by CUWS and led by Chris Stroud, a representative from Fosters who own all the wineries featured in this tasting. He wanted to showcase wines from the 'premium' end of the portfolio, instead of the 3 for £10 stuff you get in Tesco, not that there is anything inherently wrong with those; also there is an attempt to show regionality and the effects this may have on the wine - you see, I've tried to be clever by not using the word terroir, but essentially thats what they're trying to show. Wines were tasted in pairs and prices indicated are approximates; most of the wines, bar the Devils Lair, should be widely available in major wine merchants.

Annies Lane Riesling 2006, Clare Valley
£8 - B(+)

Strong fruit characters coming through on the nose, lots of lime and tanginess; palate is clean and straight forward, mostly of white fruits. Its relatively light, aromatic, quite floral perhaps even slight solvent-like smells too. Its basically a good, light and happy; not completely devoid of class. Good drink for summer, slightly chilled perhaps. Drink now to 3 yrs.

Penfolds Reserve Bin Riesling 2005, Eden Valley
£10 - B+(+)

As of 2007, rebranded as Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling. Wonderful floral and kerosene-driven nose, there is sort of a gunmetal / metallic smell too. Theres flavours of marmalade, sour apples, mineral almost astringency (in a good way); its not fruit driven, there is something more developed and subdued. The only thing I thought was out of place was the cutting acidity, its just a bit too sharp for me, but hey, it might allow the wine to develop in the bottle. I'll be optimistic here, drink in 3-7 yrs

Devils Lair Chardonnay 2005, Margaret River
£15 - B(+)

Good expression of fruit, with vanilla / creamy characteristics form the oak treatment (a touch too much for my liking, its like they're trying too hard). Its a cool wine, body is structured, firm and rather wound-up, its not expressing itself that well yet; finish is unexpectedly quite classy and lengthy. The fruit is not at the fore yet, the oak is still overwhelming which is why I think it'll be a good candidate for aging, perhaps 5 yrs. I have a 1998 and 2001 vintage stored away, will post a tasting note when I decide to drink them.

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2005, Adelaide Hills
£13 - B

I must admit I've never understood the various labels offered by Wolf Blass, theres just too many and it gets confusing to know whats what. This wine has a rather attractive nose thats almost sweet and honeyed, albeit rather alcoholic (I should've checked the abv, but in any case ita rather to get white wines displaying alcohol on the nose). Palate reveals good forward fruit, grapefruitish and some oak treatment; its pleasant enough but wholly forgettable.

Rosemount Show Reserve Shiraz 2002, McLaren Vale
£12 - B

Nose is very jammy, full of dark berries almost like cough mixture; the alcohol is apparent but the palate is not as big and punchy as it can be, there is a degree of reservedness about the wine. For Aussie Shiraz, the body of this wine is actually quite light; finish is not sustained enough though, its like a hit and run really. Again, nothing remarkable.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2002, Barossa Valley
£11 - B+(+)

Again, dark berries and jammy nose, with strong hints of licorice and smoke. Flavours here are developed with some secondary characters like mocha and cassis. The mouthfeel just seems slightly bigger and fuller than the Rosemount; the weight on the palate and sustained finish gives the wine a slight edge in terms of class and potential. I felt they got this one spot on (I've got a feeling it was a good year), flavours were generous without being dilute, it was forward without being punchy and intrusive. Liked it and I do think it may keep for a few more years just yet, 5 yrs or thereabouts. I wouldnt waste this on a barbie; a good accompaniment to heavy meat-based dish, specially with redcurrant sauce or something.

Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2004
£? - A-(+)

I dont know anything about Australian vintage charts but I've got a feeling this one, like the Kalimna above, was a good one. The fruit flavours are that of ripe berries, licorice and some smoke; its more elegant than the Kalimna, sort of the more mature and reserved of the two. There are more interesting secondary characters here with wood and light spices coming through; these normally only get reflected in the wine when the grapes ripen slowly and fully (hence a good, cool year). Taninns are more apparent and will definitely lend itself to aging; I feel there is more to be gained from this wine in due time, perhaps 7-10 years for this, peaking at 15 yrs.

Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
£12 - B+(+)

The palate didnt quite live up to the enticing nose. Nose displays nice alcoholic warmth; leather, wood and some tobacco notes. Palate was straightforward, it didnt have a weighty mouthfeel, too fleeting if anything. I cant find fault with this wine because it is well made, but theres nothing memorable either.

Wolf Blass Grey Label Langhorne Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
£20 - A-(+)

Nose is dominated by eucalyptus and mint; its like cherry flavoured cough mixture. I'm told the Langhorne Creek which they use to irrigate the vines has eucalyptus trees growing on its banks, hence the nose. The only other time I've experienced this strong eucalyptus nose was when the vineyard was directly next to a eucalyptus forest; you almost half expect a koala to jump out of the bottle. Fruit is mainly blackcurrants and berries and winegums / pastilles. Body is structured, but could do with a litle more length; it is classy but it doesnt linger. I'm told 2003 was a bad year for Cab Sauv in Aussie. Even then, this might reward cellaring up to 10 yrs, it'll be interesting to see how the eucalyptus develops. I would've rated the wine similar to the Wynns above if not for the highly unusual and memorable nose.

Overall impressions

Credit should be given where credit is due; I was skeptical when I first saw the tasting list, I felt rather cheated. But it proved to be an interesting exercise in showing regional characteristics, short of actually saying terroir. Sure Australian wines are very reliable in providing drinkable bottles in the £5-£7 range, or even the 3 for £10 range; but some areas are finding their own niches. It is not a coincidence that I've had numerous quality Rieslings from Eden / Clare Valleys (thinking of Pewsey Vale and Petaluma, respectively; both available in Oddbins), as well as classy reds from Coonawarra. Wine of the night was the Penfolds Riesling and the Penfolds Bin 128; good value in my mind and lots of character; the Wolf Blass Langhorne Creek deserves a mention for the beautiful nose.

Monday, 5 May 2008

General, 4 May 2008

Two wines with dinner and a fortified wine afterwards.

Magpie Estate 'The Thief' Mourvedre Grenache Rose 2006, Barossa Valley, AU
NYW - £8 [B+]

A rather deep coloured rose, made from unusual varietals. This off-dry rose displays plenty of fruity characteristics, with notes of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. Its not completely devoid of body, which is why it will go with light dishes (maybe chicken caesar salad). Its got slightly too much body for me to drink on its own, not to mention 14% alcohol.

Was had with: Prawn and salmon in parsley sauce with cheesy crust. Went alright with the food, but shouldve chosen a different wine.
Independent adjudicator rating: 8.5/10

Dona Dominga 'Gran Reserva' Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Oddbins - £10 [B+(+)]

A big, powerful new world wine. The nose reveals lots of attractive fruit, plenty of secondary flvours to savour. Palate is dominated by juicy blackcurrants and dark berries; there are touches of smokiness / toast, licorice and also of spices, specially cinnamon and perhaps nutmeg too. This wine really punches its way through your palate, and why not too at 14.5%. There is definitely some oak treatment, but I thought it was tastefully done; tannins should allow some maturing over 3-5 yrs, but its drinking beautifully now. I really liked it since there is so much flavours to savour, tasting this is like biting into a bunch of alcoholic berries. But it must be said that others might find it slightly too big, punchy and showy. Imagine having this for a barbecue, lovely.

Was had with: Roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and horseradish sauce. Classic beef and Cab Sauv combination really cant go wrong.
Independent adjudicator rating: 7/10

Burge Family Winemakers 'Vintage' Shiraz Touriga Souzao 2003, Barossa Valley, AU
NYW - £10 (37.5cl) [A-]

A fortified red wine, made with 40% Shiraz, 40% Touriga, 20% Souzao; the latter two are varietals commonly found in Port. This wine displayed lots of fruit, ripe blackcurrants and dark berries; I always feel that fortifying Shiraz always gives a slightly Ribena-like quality where the end product sort of tastes like fruit pastilles and wine gums. The mouthfeel is sweet, rather dense but not as heavy as vintage port; the lack of tannins probably makes this ideal for early drinking, perhaps even slightly chilled. I can certainly see it with fruit based deserts. A drawback I thought was that the alcohol level of 19.5% was very evident on the nose, wasnt disguised at all. Otherwise, a well-balanced and well made fortified wine.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

General, 27 April 2008

Two wines had with dinner. This should be a weekly affair for the next six weeks.

Margrain 'Home Block' Pinot Noir 2006, Martinborough, NZ
Oddbins - £14 [A-(+)]

Absolutely lovely Pinot Noir; its got a delicate and silky texture that happily slips down with grace and moreish finish. There is a ripe cherry nose, like that of a berry coulis / compote (you know, the bit of fruit you get with a Muller Corner?) with some smokiness, like lightly smoked bacon, and woodiness too. Fruity but not overly so. The concentration of flavour is notable and although its quite alcoholic at 14%, it doesnt punch you out. Balance and juiciness is the key here. There isnt much tannin to speak of, but I feel this will develop in the bottle for at least another 5 yrs, maybe more. A bit pricey, but love it. Read the winemakers notes for this particular release here; and I thought I was abstract.

Was had with: Roast lamb (and mint sauce), roast potatoes and creamy cauliflower. Went very well, the wine complemented the lamb.
Independent adjudicator rating: 8/10

Nieto Senetiner 'Don Nicanor' Tardio 2004, Mendoza, Arg
NYW - £7.24 (50cl) [B]

A late harvest Torrontes, made by a reputable people, liked by the chaps at Noel Young. The palate was like candied oranges, sweet marmalade. There was a decent dose of sugar, nothing too cloying or heavy; but I thought the sweetness wasnt integrated with the acidity. When tasted, it felt sweet, rather sour then a slightly bittery (again, like marmalade) finish, in that order; it just didnt express itself as a single entity. For the price, one can't complain. Dont think there is any point in keeping this.

Was had with: A lemon tart with meringue and vanilla ice cream. Although I'm not thta keen on the wine on itself, it went very very well with the desert. The sweet ice cream and meringue found its match with the sweetness, the zingy acidity of the lemon tart found a partner with the acidity in the wine. The compartmentalisation of the flavours just made it better, paradoxically.
Independent adjudicator rating: 8.5/10