Around the world on a rainy Saturday
This is one of the surviving (and thriving) independent bottle shops in Sydney. John the owner says he will match any of the big boys on price, but you soon realise that this causes him few problems since there is hardly a wine here that you’d find at Dan M’s or 1st Choice. This is exotic territory, pure and simple, but some of the wines are affordable.
It didn’t look bright and sunny last Saturday which broke records for rain, but the wet stuff eased off a bit late in the afternoon. Gary Walsh from the Winefront was present as promised but Mike Bennie was apparently stuck at an airport somewhere.
Dandelion Wonderland of the Eden Valley 2012 - $18
It was good to get another look at this curio that so many people said so many wonderland things about. My review said it was a fine Riesling that leans to the chalky/mineral side of the spectrum, and that I preferred 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.’ I’m sticking with that for now.
Wickhams Road Chardonnay and Pinot Noir 2012 - $14.50 by the dozen
These wines are made by Franco d’Anna at Hoddles Creek, from fruit grown elsewhere in the Yarra Valley and in Gippsland. This is Franco’s second label if you like, or his third since he already has two in his Hoddles Creek range. The wines are well made, with the Chardonnays showing soft, ripe fruit and plenty of youthful appeal. None of that wretched lemon curd and sour grapefruit here.
These wines are good value for money, easy on the gums, better than most commercial wines at that price. Even the Pinot Noir is drinkable, and his some Pinot character, and that’s a miracle at this price.
Blue Poles Reserve Merlot 2010 - $36
A serious Merlot from Margaret River, with real meat on its bones and a real future. No ripe plum compote here. More muscles than the Pomerol in the line-up, if a little less refined. Interesting.
Ruggabellus Efferus 2010 - $38
Some recent news from The Young Gun of Wine Awards: ‘… never before have both awards been won by the same winemaker. In 2012Abel Gibson of Ruggabellus has proven most popular on all accounts, with the judges choosing him for the Young Gun of Wine and consumers picking him for the People’s Choice.
Max Allen, author of The History of Australian Wine, said, “Past finalists of theYoung 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 lineup of finalists thus far.”
Abel Gibson grew up in the Barossa and started Ruggabellus in 2009 after the encouragement of Pete Schell of Spinifex (the 2008 Young Gun of Wine), whom he was then working for.
This is hand-made Barossa red – 50% Mataro, 40% Shiraz with a dash of Grenache and Cinsault. Enough pepper and herbs and spices here for a meal but not big and heavy, all very civilised and not a hint of oak. Interesting flavours, great balance, lots of depth and length.
It looks like it comes from Portugal or Madeira but that wacky label that gives us no information hides another hand-made Barossa red, this one made by Fraser McKinley. The Winefront has some background on him and his operation here. The short version is that Fraser has access to a part of the Hoffman’s vineyard near Ebenezer, where he uses organic practices and attention to pH in his vines and winemaking.
Maybe I was put off by the label or the foul weather, but this 2011/2012 red didn’t ring my bells or sing to me. It smelled a bit like a jungle, and tasted like a bit like a swamp. Quite developed, could be great with the right food – I’m thinking Creole.
Domaine de la Tournelle Savagnin de Voile 2009 - $48
These wines from the Jura on the French side of the Swiss Alps are not short of character. The area’s most famous wine is the Vin Jaune made from the Savagnin grape. As Gary Walsh reminded me, the wine is made like Sherry and spends some time aging under a layer of flor yeast which explains why it smells like dry Sherry. Tastes a bit like Sherry too. An acquired taste as they say. Since I’m not really familiar with these wines, I’ve provided some tasting notes from a helpful US importer.
‘Aged for approximately 3 years in 5 year old Burgundy barrels under a veil of yeast which forms on the surface of the slowly evaporating wine, this wine shares many of the aromatic qualities as the Vin Jaune: a slightly nutty, marzipan perfume along with green apple, and of course the trademark notes of a wine just beginning to oxidize.’ JoliVin Imports .
This is a less exotic style, cleaner, fresher and easier to appreciate. ‘This wine lies at one end of the spectrum marking the range of style that Savagnin, the region’s most celebrated white varietal, can produce. Pascal Clairet is passionate about promoting this, the style that the Jura is least known for, that being youthful, fresh, clean, that is to say, non-oxidative, expression of the varietal.’ JoliVin Imports
Domaine de la Tournelle Trousseau des Corvées 2010
A clue here is that the red is the youngest of the trio, and it’s not a big red - delicate yet full of interesting flavours. ‘Another of the Jura’s unique red varietals, the Trousseau grape makes a slightly darker and more structured wine than does Ploussard while still maintaining a bright personality, intriguing aromas of freshly crushed wild berries and more subtle but no less intriguing nuances of a walk in the autumn forest, peony flowers and the suggestion of damp earth. It all adds up to something which is delicate, unique, and once one sits with it and surrenders, rather captivating. JoliVin Imports
Below is a picture of Tournelle’s owner/winemaker Pascal de Clairet (yes) and his cellar. On the right is a flor yeats demonstration cask with the typical glass front.
It’s not easy tasting wines for which you really have no reference points, but I’d have to say that none of these wines made me want to rush in and buy a dozen. A couple of the other guys did - as I said, an acquired taste.
The next lot takes us to other parts of Europe, and better known labels except for the Mandoleto Nero d’Avola from Sicily. Nero d'Avola is the major red wine variety in Siciliy and well-suited to warmer climates. At $11, it’s clearly worth checking out. It didn’t grab me but it’s probably a red you need to have with oily, tasty Sicilian food.
Guiseppe Cortses Rabaja Barbaresco 2001 - $35
Barbaresco and Barolo are the prized reds from northern Italy (around Piedmont), and are both made from the Nebbiolo grape. They’re characterised by savoury, dusty, earthy flavours wrapped in tea-leaf tannins that often have an iron grip. The wines need time to give their best and eventually develop wonderful flavours in the tar and leather spectrum, but be warned: the tannin grip may never soften.
This one was a bit like that, deceiving the eye with its advanced, rusty colour, sweet fruit nose and soft mid palate. Toward the end, the tannins kicked in and made you sit up and pay attention. Gary liked it more than I did, and said the price was half of what you’d pay elsewhere (he’s right). If you’re interested, Peter Bourne the wineman is putting on an educational tasting, Nebbiolo Elusive and Exclusive, at his stylish Pyrmont premises on March 26 at 6.30.
This is a small Pomerol chateau owned by Alain Moueix who also owns Fonroque, a Grand cru classé in neighbouring St. Emillion. The vineyard is planted to Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%), and the vines are on average 30 years old. This is pretty classic Pomerol with toasty oak dominating the nose right now, and soft, savoury fruits dancing on the palate. Strong but fine-grained tannins hold it all together and ensure that the wine will improve for years. Refined and lovely.
William Downie Gippsland Pinot Noir 2011 – $62
Colour of rusty water, a nose that makes you think of Burgundy, and a palate that backs it up. Much more body and flavour than the colour suggests, and all that from a pretty difficult vintage. Great Pinot character in a nice package but not exactly cheap.
I didn’t get a shot of the champagne on offer, the Egly-OurietLes Vignes De Vrigny 1er Cru – Nov 11 disgorgement, which you can buy from John for $71. I suspect that’s a good price, given a couple of endorsements from a couple of serious wine people:
‘Egly-Ouriet's Champagnes are so good that I have begun buying them to drink at home.’ Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
‘Egly-Ouriet manages for Pinot Noir: wines of riveting concentration and purity.” Andrew Jefford, The New France
I'd love to drink this at home too, for sure
Thanks for the interesting trip, John