The bigger they are, the harder they fall
A short preamble before we get stuck into the wines: I've had too much work on, and more tastings than usual this month, and I’m building a website to support this endeavour – the logical next phase.
Bargains have been far and few in between out there. Coles seems happy to play distant second fiddle to Woolworths so the heat has gone out of the battle. Worse, they’re up to their old tricks: bumping up the Rec retail price and then putting the wines on special. One example: Dogpoint Savvy at 1st Choice on special for $25; you can buy it for $20 at Kemenys every day of every week.
Kemenys prices are always sharp but the latest cattledog didn’t really really tempt me with anything. Villa Maria Savvy 2012 for $11.50? Na. The Vavasour Avatere at $13.25 is most likely a better option – it’s waiting in the wings, I’ll let you know next time. Jim Barry Watervale Riesling 2012 for $13.50 is a bargain if you haven't bought cases of this already. The Mount Langi Ghiran Billi Billi Shiraz 2010 is still on offer for $12.50, and you’d be hard-pushed to get a better BBQ red for the money my friends tell me.
Because of the mixed bag of tastings in the last few weeks, and the mixed up photos, I’ve haven’t grouped them as usual. Instead, I’m going through the wines more or less as they came.
Cloudy Bay Pelorus Brut - $27 at Vintage direct (Nicks)
I’ve raved about this wine before, when it was $25 at Winestar. It’s still a bargain at $27, and a better wine than the cheap frogs at $35-40. Better than most of our bubblies in that range as well. Made mostly from Chardonnay. 2 years ageing on yeast lees shows with hints of yeast and warm bread on the nose. Strong mousse and very fine bead. Creamy texture with flavours of cashew and biscuits, yeast lees and a hint of citrus. Lovely mouthful with depth and length and a soft mouth feel. Perfect balance between power and elegance. BUY
Saint Clair Gruener Veltliner 2011 - $19 at East End Cellar
Gruener Veltliner is a hardy white variety popular in Austria where it occupies about one third of the vineyard area. It has fans in Australia, where it is being planted here and there. Somewhere between Pinot Gris and ripe Riesling in flavour, with fruit ranging from apple to white peach. Big wine, good with food most likely, but short (lacking acid to clean it all up). Worth buying if you’re longing for something different.
New Zealand Grüner is like “Austrian Grüner Veltliner with hormones – it is much more aromatic”, according to John Forrest from Marlborough’s Forrest Wines. He told Drinks Business back in late 2010, ‘Marlborough may have done to Grüner Veltliner what it did to Sauvignon Blanc as much as 30 years ago.’
Our winewise Bill S bought the Laurenz V. 2005 on the right for $8 at auction. The nose suggested old Riesling but the palate was more like Chardonnay. Again it was short but what a bargain.
Dopff Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg 2009 - $28 at Dan M’s
the $25 limit again, and worth it once more. This is a stunning Alsace
Riesling, big and ripe but classy, like a bowl of ripe fruit without the
citrus that is the hallmark of our Rieslings. More minerals here, and more
complexity, a towering example of what Riesling can do. Big enough to stand up
to the pork and goose dishes of the region, I’m sure.There's a touch of sweetness, be warned. BUY
The Jim Barry Lodge Hill Riesling 2012 behind it has won 7 trophies, but this is the third time I’ve tasted it and wondered why it had won all those gongs. It’s a nice, soft ripe Riesling but the standard JB Watervale holds more promise in my view. Still NOT CONVINCED, not for $20 at Winestar.
The Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2011 didn’t impress Reg, Andy or me. This is often described as Australia’s best Savvy, and we were wondering why. Simple, almost flabby, no zest, no real depth of flavour – it’s a $22-23 touch and makes no sense. AVOID
We all thought the $13 Norfolk Rise Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Winestar) was a better drink by far (Andrew’s find). Fresh, crisp and herbaceous, lovely with the oysters and prawns we had. Great summer drinking at the price. Won a gold at the Melbourne Show (96 points) but we’d give it 91 or 92 (pretty good). BUY
Dandelion Vineyards Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling 2012 - $18 at Winestar
I had read a lot of raves about this little wine with a very big name, which has a fascinating history to boot. From the website: ‘Dandelion Vineyards is a unique fusion of vine and vigneron … Our wish is to nurture the unique character of these vineyards and express their terrior (sic) in our wines. Capturing variety, vintage and vineyard requires an enlightened approach and although our growers see the Devil in every weed, we encourage the humble Dandelion amongst the vines as they supress winter weeds, provide mulch in summer, and proffer their Wishing Clocks in spring top blow off to make our wish come true.’
The fruit for this wine comes from Colin Kroehn’s 100 year-old vineyard, which he tended from 1950 to his death in 2010. This Wonderland of the Eden Valley Riesling 2012 was ‘bottled directly without fining or filtration to capture the essence of the vineyard … whole bunches were hand-picked on the 16th of March then destemmed in small batches without crushing the fruit to fill our press exactly. The free run juice was then fermented in small tanks between 11 and 14 degrees Celcius, the wine has a high level of natural acidity, 7.5 grams per litre, a pH of 3.01 and although bone dry, only 12.5% alcohol.’
So much has been written about this Riesling that I dedicated a whole blog post to it. I’m almost loath to venture my opinion on it, which is that it’s a fine Riesling that leans to the chalky/mineral side of the spectrum. I prefer the Pewsey Vale from the same region, for the extra fruit and and zest it has in abundance. The Dandelion is a bit more restrained at this stage but has the structure to develop for some years. A classy dame, but a bit aloof and hard to talk to at present.
Elizabeth Siddal Marsanne Roussane Viognier 2010 - $13 at Bond’s Corner Fine Wine
vineyard, one of John C’s finds at Bonds Corner at Northbridge. Very restrained and refined for
a McLaren Vale white, will take a few more years to open up. Minerals and wet
pebbles at the moment; not exactly Chablis but it’s sure different. Not Sure
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2012 - $20 at Kemenys
This is classy Savvy with fruit in the herbaceous spectrum, plus minerals, lots of flavour, some depth and length. A fine wine but like all the 2012 Savvies I’ve tried it’s pretty forward – pretty much ready to go. Not quite convinced it’s worth the money.
Barwang Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2012 - $13 at Winestar
This gets regular good reviews as a modern, cool climate style of Chardonnay. If it is, I don’t want modern or cool climate. The fruit is in the lemon curd/acid jazz spectrum, almost sour – or is it the oak they use? No, not likely. The 2011 was much the same. This wine actually got worse the longer we left it in the open bottle. Ghastly stuff - AVOID.
D’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2010 - $13 at Kemenys
The last bottle of this struck me as fairly developed but this one was pretty fresh. A great food wine with plenty of flavour, nice change from Savvy and Chardy, try it with Italian food like pesto/creamy pasta. Much better than the 2011 that is turning up in the shops. BUY
Sadly, the Olive Grove Chardonnay 2011 from the same stable is not enjoyable. Not a lot of Chardonnay character, plenty of generic flavour that is a bit hot and clumsy, and all squashed up on mid palate. Just 88 points from Halliday. Probably reflects the awful vintage year in SA. AVOID
The Spy Valley Chardy is not readily available. It’s no great loss since it's not that exciting for over $20. I was more impressed with the Riesling and Gewuerz from this maker. Haven’t been able to track down the 2011 Chardonnay which was declared NZ’s best white by Michael Cooper. We can only wonder if the Oz distributor is fast asleep or if the Kiwis kept it all for themselves.
Catching Thieves Margaret River Chardonnay 2011 - $11 at Dan M’s
One of the many horses in the McWilliams stable, I gave this the thumbs up a while back: simple, fresh, mouth-filling and enjoyable. Not much oak, more like an unwooded Chardy. Surprise packet for the money. BUY
Domaine de la Baume la Jeunesse Syrah 2011 – $13 at Dan M’s
The boys at Dan Murphy’s Balgowlah recommended this big soft, cuddly red from the Languedoc in the south of France. Not going anywhere but easy on the gums and packed with velvety flavour. A bit short and a bit unstructured but I’m being picky. BUYWoodlands Margaret River Chardonnay 2012 - $22 AT Dan M
Woodlands is one of my favourite labels so this was a disappointment. The wine is too simple and nowhere near as tight as a quality young Chardy should be. Light on flavour and oak, and depth. Can’t see it going very far but I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. NOT CONVINCED
Amelia Park Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2011 - $17 at Dan M’s
I wasn’t convinced by the Amelia Park Cabernet Merlot from this highly rated winery a while back, and this one is about the same: well enough made but unexciting and lacking essential flavour, depth and length. It’s cheaper than the Cab Merlot but that doesn’t really help. Margaret River blends like this should be shining beacons. NOT CONVINCED
Holm Oak Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011 - $17 at Mosman Cellars
I wasn’t expecting much from this – given the price and the wet year and the few drinkable Pinots under $25 - but Maz at Mosman Cellars said it was good so I grabbed a bottle. Sadly, he’s wrong. As luck would have it, I think he sold it to me at the Holm Oak Ilex price, which is a cheaper range. This wine is $30 at Dan Murphy’s. It’s not a great Pinot, in fact it’s barely drinkable. There are some dried herbs here but not a lot of fruit. It really doesn’t taste that great, and sure isn’t worth the money. I feel for the producers trying to make a living in such a vintage, but … AVOID
Maison de Grand Esprit Cote de Nuits-Village La Belle Voisine 2009 – was $22 at United Cellars but sold out
I only mention this because John L brought it along for lunch, and I said: if our winemakers could produce wine like this for under $25, they’d be ecstatic. It’s a perfect budget Burgundy, an object lesson in bourgeois French winemaking but sadly several shipments of it sold out in hours once word got around. Our young Turk winemakers used to ridicule the French for their méthodes anciennes, but I suspect they’d keep very quiet if they tasted this. BUY if you can find it
Castle Rock Great Southern Riesling 2012 - $18 at Kemenys
This is from down south in Western Auastralia and generally well reviewed. To me, it lacks the zing and zippy acid of the best young Aussie Rieslings, a bit one-dimensional and subdued, maybe going through a stage, but not really exciting right now. There are more convincing Rieslings out there for less money. NOT CONVINCED
Swings & Roundabouts Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2011 – $17 at Dan M’s
A pretty ordinary effort, this. Lacks charm and appeal, and the fruit and oak are a bit clumsy. No real class, pretty ordinary for Margaret River Cabernet Merlot. The Madfish Bay Gold Turtle Cabernet Merlot 2010 is both cheaper and better. NOT CONVINCED
Woodlands Cabernet Merlot 2011 - $22 AT Dan M’
Another disappointment. Plenty of soft plummy fruit and good mouth feel but quite forward, pretty well ready to drink and nowhere to go. Not good enough for this money or this label. NOT CONVINCED
Te Mata Merlot/Cabernets Woodthorpe Vineyard 2009 – $20 at Dan M’s
This is the little brother of the widely admired $70 Coleraine Cabernet Merlot. The colour isn’t that strong and shows some development, and the nose supports that impression. The flavour is developed too, with some leather and herbs and spices. Seemed a little light on body at first but opened up, filled out and came good after a while, better still the next day. Good food wine, great with chicken cacciatore. Not too heavy.
Ferngrove Frankland River Symbols Cabernet Merlot 2009 - $13 at Dan M’s
This is a highly rated winery in Great Southern WA, but this wine will do it no credit. It’s the winery’s cheapest label but it offers us nothing to enjoy. The palate is a jungle. The wine is big and clumsy and devoid of charm. AVOID
The next lot of wines were provided by Bill S at Andrew’s book club evening, along with the Gruener Veltliners reviewed above
Arthur Metz Alsace collection 2011 - $15/16 at Ultimo Wine Centre
These wines are pretty decent for the money if you want the taste of Alsace without lashing out for the grand crus. This is a commercial label as we can see from the simple descriptors at the top. They’re fairly decent wines for the money but won’t worry Aussie winemakers too much. They’re all quite ripe and forward and flavoursome, but they didn’t make me want to rush out and buy some. Am I being hard on these? Tell me if I am. NOT CONVINCED
Bill said all of the reds that follow had won gold medals at national shows, but I didn't much care for most of them. The Wicks Estate Shiraz 2010 ($16 at Dan M's) was unremarkable, the Long Road Shiraz 2010 ($20 at Dan M's) was all arms and legs and remarkable only for the fact that it was made from grapes grown at Gundagai.
The Robert Oatley McLaren Vale Shiraz 2010 was the only red with some polish here, but even it wasn’t that exciting. Mind you, Huon Hooke called it a ripper of a McLaren Vale Shiraz and gave it 93 ($16 at My Cellars). The Ingoldby Shiraz 2010 ($12 at Vintage Cellars) was the same old inky, blunt edged McLaren Vale Shiraz I’ve always loathed – consistent is about the only positive I can think of. AVOID this one. NOT CONVINCED by any of the others.
The Wolf Blass Gold Label Barossa Shiraz 2010 is usually a $20 touch, and it tastes like Wolf Has handed down his secrets of oak maturation to the current winemaker (WB has been part of the Treasure Wines/Fosters/Southcorp stable for some years). This is a slick number for sure, with lots of ripe, plush dark berries and soft tannins - slips down the hatch like a little Jesus in velvet pants as they say in Burgundy. Polished, and showing a lot of front - just like the old Wolfie. 14.5%. BUY if you like the style. I found it for $90 a sixpack on the maker’s website.
I think that’s enough for now