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.

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