Treasures from local wine merchants
I read that Michael Cooper, NZ’s James Halliday, had pronounced the Spy Valley Chardonnnay 2011 the best NZ Chardy released in 2012. You can get all kinds of Spy Valley wines in Sydney but the Chardonnay isn’t one of them. After an exhaustive trawl of the internet, the only place that popped up as a source was Mosman Cellars.
Mosman Cellars? I didn’t even know that we
had an independent wine merchant left around here. There’s Cremorne Cellars
down in Spofforth St, holding out against the Vintage Cellars monopoly in this
area. Coles bought the Theos chain some years ago, and Theo had bought just about all the
grog shops from Neutral
Bay to Mosman. It was time to do what I've been preaching and show support my local wine merchant some support.
Mosman Cellars is a hole in the wall on Spit Road, among a gaggle of forlorn-looking shops, between Stanton and Parriwi Roads on the opposite side. The owner is a helpful young fellow called Maz. He doesn’t have any Spy Valley Chardonnay but he says he’ll find me a bottle. Service is the name of the game here, and wine labels you don’t see too often.
Southern Highlands Wines Estate Riesling 2012 - $15 at Mosman Cellars
Big, rich wine with enormous concentration of fruit, almost too much of a good thing, ripe citrus and orange set off against a fine acid backbone. Talk about flavour! Not one to keep, but one to have with full-flavoured foods over the next 12 months. It’s dry but it might’ve been even better late picked. 14%.
Castle Rock Great Southern Riesling 2012 – $20 at Bonds Corner Fine Wines
Riesling from Porongurup near Mount Barker, with more restrained fruit than the 2012s
from South Australia.
It’s more delicate too but not soft in the German manner, in fact the acid is bordering on sour. The lime juice fruit
is a little more subdued here, and the flavour has more herbaceous notes. With a bit of luck, that sharp backbone of fine acid will ensure years of improvement. Halliday gives it 96,
Ray Jordan 95. I would’ve like a little more mid-palate intensity and a touch softer finish so I’m a couple
of points behind. 12%.
Spy Valley Gewuerztraminer 2011 - $20 at Kemenys
I’ve been reading good things about Spy Valley, and their Gewuerztraminer has been a favourite for a while now. Had a chance to try it again, and it’s a big, rich Gewuerz and just great if you’re looking for the ripe lychees and spices. Not one to put away, but one to drink soon with rich foods like pork dishes.14%.
Spy Valley Riesling 2012 - $20 at Mosman Cellars
A much more refined wine, from a different year as well, really elegant citrus fruit and delicate but persistent acid. Long and lean but ripe enough, the fruit is softening already but the wine should improve for a couple of years or three.12.5%.
Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2012 - $17 at Mosman Cellars
looks like a soft, ripe year from early indications. This wine has terrific fruit
with hints of gooseberry and cut grass, and some citrus nuances but it’s all
wrapped in a soft, ripe envelope that’s pretty easy on the gums. There's not a huge of amount of acid here for a young Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy now
rather than later. 13%
value 2009 is gone now, but this is very similar. Recognisable as Chardonnay, a
touch more elegant and balanced, a trifle less oaky, decent drinking for
the money. 13.5%
Catching Thieves Margaret River Chardonnay - $11 at Dan M’s
I used to struggle to find a McWilliams wine I could recommend, but this is the second one this week. The cute label that bears no resemblance to any other in the company’s stable. I suspect the fruit for it comes from McWilliams’ recent acquisition of Evans & Tate. This is pretty good drinking for the money – and I’ve seen this label on special at under $10 – with good Chardonnay fruit and enough depth and length and acid to keep it interesting. Not unlike unwooded Chardy but a bit more disciplined. 13.5%
Knee Deep in Margaret River Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - $16 at Mosman Cellars
What I like most about this wine is the label. It made me smile. The wine was a bit flat and unexciting for an SSB from Margaret River. Needs a bit more fruit and more zest to convince us that it’s a serious wine. Not that bad, but not really good enough. Gets 91 from James H. I’m a couple points behind once more.
Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling 2012 - $15 at Winestar
This looked like a terrific bargain, with all the gongs and rave reviews: South Australian Wine of the Year (Trophy), 96 Points (Gold) at the Melbourne Show 2012, Gold Medal at the Hobart Show 2012, Best Value White Wine - The Age/Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide 2013, and more.
Reg, Andy and I grabbed a bottle to have with lunch. Our disappointment was unanimous: this was a pleasant, soft Riesling with instant appeal, nothing wrong with it, but we all agreed we’d had better Rieslings from this terrific year. Pewsey Vale, Jim Barry Watervale, O’Leary Walker Watervale and Mitchell’s Clare Valley Rieslings are our top 4 for $15 -$20.
About the Knappstein, Nick Stock writes: ‘… lovely, dense acidity, crunchy and even. Terrific flow and balance, great flavour depth here.’ We didn’t see that. Tyson Stelzer says ‘Precise lime juice, granny smith apple and lemon blossom carry seamlessly from refined bouquet through a palate of brilliant intensity, unreserved focus and incredible persistence. Layers of chalky mineral structure ...’ we didn’t see that either. Max Allen talks about a great value Riesling you can ‘comfortably cellar for a decade or more.’ We didn’t think the wine would last that long.
Are we blind? Were we
smoking something weird over lunch? No. The 2012 Jim Barry Lodge Hill served as
a reference, and it was the better wine (and the dearer at $20) yet this winner
of 7 trophies is not our top 2012 Riesling either. It comes down to the way we
taste wines, I suspect: with food, over a period, not on a bench with a dozen others. Try it yourself, it's not a bad wine for $15.
Bergerac is an area that lies to the south-east of Bordeaux, very much overshadowed by its famous neighbour. Bergerac is a large and diverse area with a mixed reputation, so this is the kind of wine you should only buy from a wine merchant who knows his way around the producers. John at Bonds Corner in Northbridge was a sommelier before he bought this bottleshop, and he has an interesting selection lot of wines here.
This one is an aromatic wine with a fresh fruit flavour profile – there’s some Sauvignon Blanc detectable here, and other flavours suggesting a fruit salad mix of grapes. Checking on the appellation reveals that Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadelle, Viognier and Carignan are all used in these wines. It’s fresh and well-made, and good summer drinking when chilled. It’s a bit short on the finish but the reason it’s not a BUY is the price: $22 after the 15% discount for a 6-pack. There’s just not enough to it for this kind of money. More info on the wines of Bergerac here http://www.helensavage.com/tastings/bergerac.html
Brokenwood Chardonnay 2012 – $16 at Chambers Cellars (30% off sale)
Once this was the original boutique winery with a tiny output, but these days Brokenwood makes a staggering array of wines. Few of them use Hunter Valley fruit, it seems. This Chardy is sourced from Beechworth, McLaren Vale and Cowra, and it’s a very attractive, well-made wine – fruit driven and not relying on oak to any extent. The downside is that it’s not recognisable as a Chardonnay, it tastes more like a fruit salad blend. Nice enough, don’t get me wrong, but not really good enough compared with Chardys from Hoddles Creek and Tarrawarra for the same money. (this is a $20 wine most places, most of the time).
Brokenwood Pinot Noir 2010 - $19 at Chambers Cellars (30% off)
Pinot Noir from Beechworth is a notch higher in the price range than the
Chardy, and the first thing that stands out is the good red colour and the
depth of it. Sadly, the rest of the wine is less impressive. Again it’s
well-made, and again it’s not recognisable as a Pinot Noir. It’s a light to medium bodied red
that lacks both the sweet and savoury nuances we expect in a good Pinot. Checking
my bearings, I find that scores range from 87 (Parker) to 90 points from the
ever-generous James Halliday. I'm somewher in between.
Ruggabellus FLUUS 2011 - $23 at Bonds Corner Fine Wine
I love the name, and the label, and the story told by Abel Gibson on his website: ‘... my life has been filled with privileged experience working with and observing some great winemakers each with their own unique way of crafting wine. ‘Respect and history’ was learnt at Penfolds, ‘art and tradition’ at Rockford, ‘intellect and detail’ from Chris Ringland, ‘bunch and mystery’ from Charlie Melton, ‘provenance and balance’ from my father at Gibson and most recently and quite importantly ‘belief’ from Pete and Magali at Spinifex – without their encouragement ‘Ruggabellus’ would in all likelihood have remained an idea to this day.’
Last year, Abel Gibson won both Young Gun of Wine Awards – he was both the judges' and the consumers’ choice. Max Allen said, ‘Past finalists of the Young Gun of Wine Awards have gone on to become legends of the industry, so it is remarkable that one winemaker has taken both awards – particularly so in a year that has arguably the strongest line-up of finalists thus far.’ Enough said?
The other wines Abel Gibson makes are
- TIMAEUS – inspired by Grenache
- EFFERUS – inspired by Mataro
- ARCHAEUS – inspired by Syrah
I couldn't find an explanation for the inspired names, try as I might. FLUUS, Abel tells us, contains those wines that remain after blending the three above. Gary Walsh at the Winefront tells us that the 2011 Fluus was the only wine Abel made from that rain-soaked vintage. I wanted to like the wine, a hand-made, medium-bodied (13.6%) Barossa GSM, but I have to admit I liked the wine less than Gary. I think it reflects the awful vintage, and in hindsight I may have been a bit harsh on Kym Teusner’s 2011 reds which have a bit more meat on their bones. The Fluus has all the right ingredients for a wine made to go with food but they don’t work any magic, and the wine feels a bit edgy and thin in the mouth, rather than silky and smooth. Not a keeper either.
More info here: http://www.ruggabellus.com.au/information/
Tempus Two Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 - $13 at MyCellars and other places
This blend of Hunter Semillon and Adelaide
Hills Sauvignon Blanc has won tree trophies and several gold medals, and here
am I saying ‘stay clear of it.’ This is one of those tricked-up wines where
unripe (11.3%) fruit is masked by a sweet fruit overlay that reminds me of
artificially sweetened soft drink. I’ve no idea how this concoction fooled the
judges.My partner is in full agreement.
Harewood Estate Riesling 2012, Vendange Tardive - $20 at Mosman Cellars
This is a Riesling from the Great Southern region of Western Australia. Vendange Tardive, like Spaetlese, means late picked. This wine has some residual sweetness on offer but little else – no crisp acidity to carry it, no real intensity of mid-palate flavour, no perfume on the nose ... it’s a mystery wine from a serious new winery. Three of us could find no redeeming features over here, and I still can’t a week later.
Bad bottle? No idea. On that subject, the heavy designer bottle is a real turn-off. I really wish wineries would stop using these since they must take a lot more energy to make and to move around than ordinary bottles.