Saturday, 2 March 2013


Some notable wines I tasted in November - December 2012, all of which were enjoyed over dinner.

2009 Pieropan, La Rocca, Soave Classico
A- | Cambridge Wine Merchants £ 23.99

White floral notes with white stone fruits, honey and hints of candied almond; its lifted, fragrant and opulent. Palate is textured almost slightly mealy like oat porridge (in a good way), white fruits dominate, quite sweet with balancing acidity; mouthfilling and shows great presence, leading to a minerally finish. Focused yet generous, excellent stuff.

2005 Condrieu, Les Terrasses du Palat, Francois Villard

Quite heady still, overripe peaches and nectarines mingle with honey on the nose. Palate is rich and full, stone fruit flavours dominate to the fore with a hint of grapefruit; low acidity, sustained mid palate flavours, slight drying grip on the finish. Not the most showy / opulent Condrieu, but shows decent complexity and impressively long finish.

1996 Jim Barry 'The Armagh' Shiraz, Clare Valley

Top of the tree at Jim Barry wines, 'The Armagh' Shiraz is one of the iconic wines of Australia, right up there with Penfolds' Grange and Henschke's Hill of Grace; from a really good vintage too.

Still primary fruits on the nose, blackcurrant cordial and pastilles, still plenty of minty eucalyptus showing; fragrant and lifted, incredibly fresh. On the palate, flavours of blueberries and blackcurrants dominate; still primary but not overwhelming; theres purity and sweetness of fruit at its core; the oak has melded into the wine, tannins are resolved - everything feels together, all supported by the fruit. This is a stunning wine, probably close to its peak, but will continue to evolve, drink now - 2023+.  

1996 Elderton 'Command' Shiraz, Barossa

First made in 1984, this is another iconic Barossa Shiraz with a stellar reputation of being one of the region's best; always a high scoring wine among the wine critics, if you are into point-counting.

Primary fruits on the nose, ribena pastilles, quite sweet and lifted, think cough syrup medication; lovely eucalyptus / mint nose also coming through; very voluptuous and ready to please out of the bottle. Palate is textured, blackcurrant fruit still at its core, but its not brash, its mellowed and rounded; savoury and gamey hints too, has an oiliness like streaky bacon. Great mouthfeel, complex flavours with all components integrated; its probably at its peak, but should still hold for a while, drink now - 2018+. An absolute joy to drink, one of the best Australian Shiraz I have ever tasted.

2004 Magpie Estate 'The Gomersal' Grenache, Barossa
A- | Noel Young £24.99 (for the '09 vintage)

Magpie Estate is a joint venture between Trumpington, Cambridge-based wine merchant Noel Young and winemaker Rolf Binder from the Barossa (who also makes wine under the labels JJ Hahn and Veritas). 'The Gomersal' is their top end Grenache, only made in the best years; typically a small percentage of their premium Shiraz (called 'The Election') is blended into the Gomersal, in 2004 it was 3%.

Warmth on the nose, mulled spices, cloves with red plums and cherries compote, slightly cooked fruit nature to this; theres also secondary notes of game and cured meats, even slightly dirty / earthy characters too. Palate is soft and rounded, fruit is still bright, red cherries and red berries with damsons; medium-high acidity, it feels vivacious and nimble; textured mouthfeel, all components integrated well. Probably at its peak, but should keep yet, drink now - 2018+

Comments: All the wines above are classics, icons even, in their own rights, a short word on each. The Pieropan La Rocca is perhaps the benchmark for quality Soave Classico, the 2009 here is the current vintage which I picked up from Cambridge Wine Merchants. Yes its not cheap, but in my experience, the La Rocca never disappoints; Pieropan also do a basic Soave (less exciting but still good) at about half the price of the La Rocca. The Condrieu and Magpie Estate were acquired from the cellars of a Cambridge College, both ageworthy wines showing the benefits of some cellaring time. The two mature, iconic Australian Shiraz, the Jim Barry Armagh from Clare and the Elderton Command from Barossa were picked up at auction. Both came with huge reputations and correspondingly high expectations, which I am glad to say it met with flying colours - these premium-end Australian reds certainly worth cellaring as much as Cru Classe clarets.

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