A lot of wines this week, and an interesting bunch
A couple of dinners with friends and some lovely wines. Cooked lamb neck for the first time, trying to remember the secret ingredients. As usual, I picked the eyes out of 3-4 recipes. Lemon zest was one, and I think red wine vinegar was the other. It was a pot roast with veggies and wine and stock. The meat needs close to 4 hours before it falls off the bone, but it adds a lot of flavour to dull parsnips.
More Mountadam High Eden Chardonnay 2010. Yes, I know I’ve raved about this wine before but we had occasion to drink another bottle of it. It confirmed everything I said: it’s a class act and the best Aussie Chardy this side of 50 or 60 bucks. $25 at Winestar.
Vavasour Awatere Pinot Gris 2011, $17 at Kemenys
A pretty stylish wine showing more restraint than most PGs. I pretty well agree with Gourmet Traveller on this one: ‘15 per cent of the wine was fermented in three-year old French oak barriques. Intense, rich and creamy pinot gris with a tantalising mix of Nashi pear, quince and bread-crust flavours. The wine is dry with good weight and a lingering finish. This is a very classy Marlborough Pinot Gris. 5 stars. 95 points.’
This is Knappstein Hand Picked Clare Valley Riesling under a different label, selling for $10. It’s a pretty good Riesling too if still quite undeveloped. There’s plenty of citrus fruit here and it’s ripe enough, and there’s depth and length so the whole thing should come together given a few more years.
O’Leary Walker Watervale Riesling 2012, $17, Jim’s Cellars
Another superb 2012 Riesling from one of our best Riesling areas. It has that lifted, fragrant, floral character you only see in great years. It’s a delicate wine with lovely concentration of fruit on the palate, in the citrus spectrum. Softer than I expected, and a tad shorter than usual for this label. Still, plenty of fine acidity here but I think the Jim Barry has more to offer right now. I think this wine may need longer to show its best.
Hidden Label Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 KHL 1697, $11, Kemenys
This is the Capel Vale Regional Selection Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 under a hidden label. Blackcurrant fruit and hints of cedar on the nose, soft and inviting in the Margaret River style. This is a soft, medium bodied, elegant Cabernet with good length and fine tannins. Could show a little more concentration of fruit on mid-palate but I suspect I’m being picky. It doesn’t have a long future ahead of it either, but it’s a far classier act than most of the wines in this price range. Halliday gives it 94. A tad generous perhaps.
Bremerton Cab Shiraz Malbec Merlot 2010, $17 at Dan M’s
This wine boasts and unorthodox combination of grape varieties. What we have here is glass staining purple, big fruit and plenty of oak to keep it in check. It’s all wrapped in a tight envelope, with plenty of depth and length, and it opened up over several days to show vibrant fruit and nicely integrated oak. Very well-made.
Halliday ranks the vineyard very high with 5 red stars, but only gives this wine 87 points. My first impression wasn’t that positive either, and this shows the benefit of tasting a wine over several days.
Vintage Cellars Chalkboard HV Semillon 2012, $10, Vintage Cellars
I rushed out to grab a bottle of this when Tyson Stelzer wrote about a scandal at the Hunter Valley Wine Show, where this $10 Semillon made by Tyrells for Vintage Cellars won the Marshall-Flannery Trophy and the Henry John Lindeman Memorial Trophy. Tyson describes ‘a crisp and zesty style of pure lime and lemon fruit, with a hint of cut grass ... a generous Semillon of impressive balance and clean fruit focus, ready to unscrew right away.’
The Wine Punter talks about ‘apples and lemons leaping out of the glass in a spray of fresh, zesty aromas, ... a veritable mouthwash of zippy acid all wrapped up in crunchy green apple and lime. It has a long finish and is dangerously drinkable. It is made for summer and seafood and with relatively low alcohol (10%), it’s got lunchtime quaffing written all over it.’
I thought I’d share these views with you since I’ve been pretty open about my dislike for young Hunter Semillons that taste of green apples and unripe lemons. And so it is here, except that the wine does have more zippy fruit than you’d expect for 10% alcohol. It finishes short, kind of crunched up, and that persistent unripe fruit taste never really quits.
The Armchair Critic Chardonnay 2010 - $17, Kemenys
‘This is the best sub-$20 chardonnay of the year,’ says Tyson Stelzer. ‘It perfectly juxtaposes the cool, mineral edge of Tumbarumba with restrained almond oak and the complexity of lees contact. It’s beautifully textured, with a lingering lemon juice tail and an exciting future in front of it. 94 points.’
Great expectations, unfulfilled once more. It’s not the first time Tyson has raved about a wine that left me cold. Nor is it the first time a McWilliams wine has left me scratching my head. The label is the brainchild of Nicholas Crampton who impressed me with his imagination and balls when I reviewed his Zeppelin label Grenache some months back (made by Kym Teusner). I’ve been less enthusiastic about other Crampton creations, and that goes for imports like Chat Noir and Les Courtilles Cotes Du Rhone.
This wine doesn’t say Chardonnay out loud when you go near it. The nose is subdued and the flavour sits at the citrus end of the spectrum, the acid rounded by oak of little distinction. It doesn’t sing, it finishes short and doesn’t beckon you to drink more of it. The best sub-$20 Chardonnay of the year? It’s not a patch on the TarraWarra Estate Chardonnay 2010 or the Hoddles Creek Chardonnay 2011, both available for $1 more.
Wynns black label Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, $25, Dan M
I mention the label since there are now several Wynns Coonawarra Cabernets. This is the original, and this is the 2010 model of a red I sang the praises of for the first six months of this year. The 2009 was a $50 red for $20. Sadly, the 2010 isn’t half the wine despite the great year, and it costs $25 or more right now so I can’t recommend it. I’d put it in the same class as the 2010 Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Ridge Quartage, which sells for $16-17.
When I read the reviews of the 2010 several months ago, I said: buy more 2009 instead. Sometimes it's satisfying to have made the right call.
Yes, there’s plenty of ripe cassis/ blackcurrant fruit in the 2010, some cedary oak and a lovely soft texture. It’s medium bodied and just 13.5%, which is a rare attribute for a Coonawarra red these days. It finishes with soft, fine tannins but it’s a straightforward wine. I really don’t see it going very much further, but I have to a add the caveat that these wines have shown a remarkable capacity to surprise skeptics over the years. A generous friend recently brought 4 old black labels to a tasting: they were full of life and showed no signs of fading.
This wine always gets rave reviews, I don’t know why. Ray Jordan calls the 2010 ‘one of the very best under this label. 'Wild fruit on the nose with a lush mix of plummy fruit and a little sage bush edge. The palate is seamlessly constructed with an effortless easy finish. The tannin structure and oak integration are features. A most polished and stylish wine.’
I agree that it’s better put together than the 2009 which is simple and short and disappointing. The 2010 has a better structure and attractive fruit to fill it in. What it doesn’t have is depth and complexity. It’s one-dimensional, almost simple. Nice and clean, well-made but simple. The 2009 Woodlands Cabernet Merlot leaves it for dead.
Amelia Park Cabernet Merlot 2010
3 throphies and 3 golds (2 of them top). Ray Jordan calls it an absolute cracker and gives it 95 points, describing ‘lovely blackcurrant & fruit characters merging seamlessly into a lovely close knit wine of poise & elegance.’ Halliday gives it 94 and says it’s ‘a serious yet elegant, medium-bodied cabernet merlot, perfectly framed and balanced, the blend wholly synergistic and seamless.’
So why am I not convinced? To be honest, it was a tough decision. I can see the immediate appeal of this wine: the fruit is seductive and fairly leaps out of the glass. It’s put together like a Wolf Blass Jimmy Watson trophy winner, so I can see why it won the medals. Over several evenings, drunk with food, the wine lacked real depth and complexity. It’s fruit-driven, and the fruit is gorgeous, but I expect a little more for nearly $25. Again, not a patch on the 2009 Woodlands Cabernet Merlot.
Fox Gordon Sauvignon Blanc 2011, $11.70, 1st Choice
I’ve been impressed with the Viognier and the Cabernet Tempranillo from this source, but this wine doesn’t do Fox Gordon any credit, not even at this bargain price. It hails from the Adelaide Hills but tastes like any number of cheap Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs.
Tim Gramp Watervale Riesling 2010, $15, Kemenys
This wine lacks that essential zest that makes young Riesling such a pleasure to drink. It isn’t integrated, and the citrus fruit is held back by a flat and hollow base. It doesn’t sing and it doesn’t dance. That’s surprising since the Gramps know how to make Riesling, and Watervale is one of the great Riesling areas, and 2010 is a great year. Trophy and Gold Medal at the 2011 Boutique Winemakers Awards.
Scotchmans Hill Bellarine Shiraz 2010, $22, Kemenys
I didn’t know what to make of this wine. On one hand, it’s too ripe and chunky for a cool climate Shiraz, on the other hand it has some green tinges to it that don’t sit well. It struck me as disjointed, and I thought it lacked charm. It didn’t improve over a couple of days either, so it’s hard to see where it’s going. It just didn’t appeal to me.
I thought I’d try it because Huon Hooke gave it 95. That’s a big number from him. Huon’s notes read: ‘smoky, charcuterie and dark fruits, also graphite aromas, very complex, sumptuous and fascinating. Same in the mouth: fleshy and smooth, supple and sumptuous. Decadent stuff!’
Gramp’s Barossa Shiraz 2010, $15, Kemenys
Jeremy Oliver finds ‘a spicy, gamey bouquet of dark, brooding berry and plum-like fruit, cigar boxes and violets, it's both sumptuous and elegant. Deeply flavoured and velvety, with tremendous presence of fruit underpinned by firm, al dente tannins, it finishes with depth and character. How they've done this for the price, I simply have no idea! 94/100.’
Sounds good, doesn’t it? That’s why I
thought I’d try it. Here’s another wine that is too big and chunky. Impenetrable colour, an
unyielding monolith, and it’s almost 15%. I didn’t check the alcohol as I usually do. This is not enjoyable. Has a bitter licorice taste that runs through it. No charm, no grace, just brute force. Sledgehammer Shiraz.
I have to say I’m getting sick and tired of all these South Australian reds weighing in at 14.5 and 15% even in well-tempered years like 2010. It’s not just Barossa and McLaren Vale Shiraz, it’s Coonawarra Cabernet too – Leconfield 2010 is one that comes to mind, Mr Riggs ‘The Outpost’ is another. There are lots more.
That's all, folks!