A few great wines, and too many of the other kind
When it comes to reds, I’ve long been a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux blends that add some Merlot and perhaps Cabernet Franc to the blend. So I was pretty chuffed when I retasted the Amberley Cabernet Merlot 2010 a few days ago and found it exceeded my wildest expectations. I'd bought a dozen of these for the ridiculous price of $13 some 7-8 months ago. There’s still some left at $14 here: http://ourcellar.com.au/p/8175/amberley-secret-lane-cabernet-merlot-750ml
Sadly, the Evans & Tate Cabernet Merlot 2009 didn’t exceed in any department, and the Philip Shaw no 17 2009 Bordeaux blend from Orange disappointed as well. My current benchmark for this style is the Woodlands Cabernet Merlot 2009. It has more to it than most Cabernet Merlot blends which tend to be fruit-driven drink-soon propositions. The Woodlands is more dense and brooding and adds a hint of dusty gravel character which made me think of Pomerol. I think the 2009 has the edge on the 2010. Another wine I wish I’d bought more of, but this one was $23 a bottle.
Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 for $18
Here we get into bargain territory. This red is everything Huon Hooke says it is: ‘An outstanding young Coonawarra, loaded with bright, blackcurrant and cassis aromas and flavours, with nicely handled oak and delicious fruit sweetness backed by good tannins.’ 95 Points. Ray Jordan gives it 97, Winestate gives it 5 stars. 14.5%. More details here: http://www.winestar.com.au/prod2746.htm
I could add that it’s not exactly my idea of a restrained Coonawarra Cabernet built for a long life, but the sheer up-front appeal here is too strong. Think of it as built for a Lush Life – I’m sure the Jazz lovers among you will understand – to be enjoyed now and for the next 3-6 years. Now the good news: The RR price is over $30, and the best retail price around the traps is $25. It turns out that Kemenys sells the same wine under a Hidden Label for $18. How do I know? Because Huon Hooke’s quote above is next to it https://www.kemenys.com/go.jsp#!class=Product&spn=1093931.
At $18, it’s a serious bargain if you don’t mind the plain wrapper.
Another Hidden label worth buying is the 2009 Eden Valley Riesling, which is all of $9. OK, it’s not a super-duper Riesling but it’s hard to fault for the price. It comes from Poverty Hill Wines in Eden Valley, not one of the better known producers but a winery in capable local hands. ‘The name derives from a windswept, stone inhabited hill on one of our partner’s properties barren of any grass or such,’ says the plain website. ‘It was the best we could come up with at the time and we think it is a name that is hard to forget!’ http://www.povertyhillwines.com.au/ .
The wine is showing a touch of development, even a hint of hair oil on mid palate, but it has length and depth and a long acid tail to keep it fresh for a while longer. 12.5%. $9 at Kemenys. Great for everyday drinking.
This Margaret River Chardonnay is sourced from fruit grown on the estate vineyard in Wilyabrup. Barrel-fermented and matured in French oak. 30% of the wine was went through malo-lactic fermentation, which the label says has softened the wine’s natural acidity and added a creamy, richness. It’s a classy style, this, with the cashew nut oak finely balanced against hints of grapefruit and pretty long, fine acid. Some white peach came through after prolonged opening, giving us a hint of the wine’s potential. 3-5 years, at least. 13.5%. $22 at Kemenys.
Kooyong Estate Clonale 2011 Chardonnay
Very similar class to the Lenton Brae, but more restrained/refined even. French oak again, clearly of good quality but in the back seat. There’s fine fruit, tight and austere at this stage with fine acidity and just a hint of malo-lactic mouth feel. More grapefruit than stone fruit right now. Good with seafood if you have to drink it now. Will get better for several years, a triumph given the tricky vintage. 13%. $22.50 at 1st Choice Liquor.
I’ll skip over the Bellarmine Riesling from Pemberton since you’d have a tough time finding the 2010, but Kemenys have the 2011 for about $17. This is another wine that was transformed after just 9 months in bottle, showing lovely development in the creamy, almost honey/toasty Riesling manner. Don’t leave this one too long.
I’ll skip over the d’Arenberg Hermitage Crab as well, since I’ve recommended it before. It’s still a lovely food wine for $13 but it won’t get any better. Nice and round and mouth-filling now. Buy up, and drink up.
The Vouvray La Coulée 2009 was clean enough and quite delicate, but didn't offer much else, really. Chenin Blanc from here needs years to show its best but I don’t see the potential or the backbone needed for the long haul here. Not a bargain for $20 at Dan Murphys.
I had high expectations for the Castle Rock Estate Great Southern Riesling 2011, a wine James Halliday gave 95 points to ans called 'ludicrously cheap'. I had some of this over lunch with my mate Reg. The nose was a standout and the front palate full of zingy young Riesling promise. Sadly, we both thought it did a vanishing act after that, and it didn't produce a satisfying finish after several more days. A bit short, in short. $12%. $18 at Kemenys.
Mitchelton's Blackwood Park Riesling is usually a pretty reliable performer but this 2010 had an off-day or something, coming across a bit flat and tired. No zip, no spritz. $14 at Kemenys.
The Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay 2009 from the Hunter was a polished performer, a little too polished for my liking. It never really opened up, it was like sucking on a smooth pebble without getting the infusion of minerals that a Chablis delivers. This is bigger than Chablis, mind you. Nicely put together, good balance of fruit and oak, just not really prepared to open up. $22 at Porters.
Bunnamagoo Chardonnay 2009 from Mudgee was a special at 1st Choice, and the guys there said it was great, but I found too much oak over ripe but indifferent fruit. A nice big round drink if you like a lot of wood but not really up there with other Chardys around $20.
There’s a lot of the Evans & Tate Cabernet Merlot 2009 around, and I can see why it hasn’t walked off the shelves. It’s not that attractive. Yes, it’s soft and plummy enough but that’s about it, there’s not much depth and not much length and not much to recommend it really. $17 at 1st Choice.
I had high hopes for the Hollick Cabernet Merlot 2009 from Coonawarra but it showed the same slight hardness on the palate that put me off its little brother the Shiraz Cabernet 2009. Shame because everything else is pretty well together here in a medium-bodied package. Not big on complexity, mind you. $18 at 1st Choice.
Deen de Bortoli Vat 4 Petit Verdot 2009 has 4 gold medals stuck on the bottle so I thought: maybe we have a $10 super bargain here. OK, it’s $11 at 1st Choice but the real issue is the stuff inside the bottle. It didn’t grab me even after giving it ample opportunity over several days. The fruit is bright and juicy but you can see why the frogs always blend this variety (though even as a blender it’s fallen from favour there). Unfocused, unstructured, missing something really. The nose was mostly alcohol. Didn’t make me want to drink more of it.
The Metala Shiraz
Cabernet 2010 is a ridiculous wine. It reminded me of the Gramps 2010 Shiraz I wrote about a
few weeks ago, but it’s even bigger and more impenetrable. It’s a sledgehammer, not a
table wine. It hits you like that. Sorry, assaults you. I can’t imagine why
anybody would want to make a wine like this, let alone drink it. I take that
back: I have mates who love’em this big. HH gave it a great rap and 95 points.
Hell, Huon wouldn’t give Grange more than 95 - he must've had an off day. This ain't no poor man's Grange in my book, this is a poor man's fast track to ruin. $11 at 1st Choice.
I wanted to like Philip Shaw’s No 17 Saint-Emilion blend 2009 from the high country of Orange – 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 10 Cabernet Sauvignon. Love the unusual label. The wine was a big disappointment. At first it came up pretty tired, quite developed. After some time, it opened up a bit and showed some elegant fruit but it was all pretty simple and not that exciting.
I wondered if I’d missed something and consulted the Oracle (JH) who says: ‘Light, clear colour, with some development already showing; the savoury/brambly/foresty characters have already exercised control over the palate, with not much left to enjoy.’ Maybe an off vintage?
De Bortoli Windy Peak Pinot Noir 2010. Bought this wine for my Pinot Noir under $25 exercise a while back but didn’t open it then. When I did, I asked myself: why do people bother with $12 Pinot Noirs? It’s hard enough making a decent Pinot Noir for twice that money. Why not add this to your cask wines? It’s a waste of bottle and label. Nice label too in this case. The wine is feeble lollywater with a hard edge. Cheap and tastes that way.
The Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2011 was a wine a fellow bought a case of at Dan Murphys. I asked him if it was that good, and he said it was the best Pinot Grigio he'd ever had, so I tried a bottle. I wish I hadn’t. Flabby, touch sweet, loose and unfocused - vin tres ordinaire.