Friday, February 8, 2008
Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free/ We've golden soil and wealth for toil/ Our home is girt by sea;
First an apology, as some of you know I have just moved to the UK and being in the middle of moving house, my wife getting a dream job and preparing for my move to New Zealand next week for two months of harvest has meant the blog has suffered. I promise lots of fun stuff once harvest starts for me next week. Another season of rotting fruit for a living! So now that the apology is out of the way, back to original programming
One of the benefits of being in London and being part of "the trade" as they say is getting to attend some pretty amazing tastings. Last month I rocked up to the annual "Australia Day Tasting" put on by Wine Australia at Arsenal Football Stadium. Over two hundred producers (with well over five hundred wines) showed up to highlight the diversity and quality of wine from Australia.
One of the new initiatives from Wine Australia is their "Regional Heroes" program, designed to highlight the iconic wines from regions that have distinct and diverse characteristics, was on display through focused varietal tasting rooms dedicated to Shiraz, Cabernet, Semillon, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. To me it was quite clear that while Australia still produces the world's best Semillon, and some Shiraz that can compete with top Rhône producers, we are still taking baby steps with our Pinot Noir and there are still only a couple of producers of Chardonnay that can be said to be playing on the world stage.
Some of the highlights of the tasting for me:-
2006 Ten Minutes by Tractor Pinot Noir
Brilliant light cherry color. Elegant floral nose and scrumptious red fruit flavor. Great palate weight, soft integrated tannins and feminine finish make for a great example of Mornington Peninsula Pinot!
2005 Yabby Lake Pinot Noir
Where Ten Minutes by Tractor was light on its feet, this was all power! Dark cherry in the glass. Rich, opulent and broad balanced by lovely acidity. My only gripe is that it was missing a bit of mid palate. Very different example of what Mornington Peninsula can be.
2006 Bay of Fires Tigress Pinot Noir
A Tassie entry - very light strawberry color, translucent almost. Screaming acid which works with a high toned floral wine. Tannins are a tad harsh right now but this is only a puppy. A couple of years in the cellar should make for a great refreshing Pinot for Turkey day!
2005 Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir
The Pinot standout of the day. I have been disappointed in my experiences with Stonier before, but not this time. Brilliant and bright red cherry in color. Yummy red fruits (cherry, raspberry and wild strawberry) and highly floral. A touch of baking spices, super soft tannins, crisp acidity and a singing, long finish make this wine a winner. This tastes so good right now!
2005 Giaconda Estate Chardonnay
One of the few estates that can be said to compete on a global level with the best of Burgundy and California this wine combined the soft mouthfeel of sur lie vinification, peachy and creamy malolactic notes with a lovely high toned finish. The oak is dominant at the moment but my experience with Giaconda is that it needs time to integrate before showing best. A stunner in 4-5 years.
2006 Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay
The new kids on the block. A stony and briny flavor (think a beach of slate with the surf misting around) with some lemon and melon and toasty, briochy oak. Super long finish. I may be a convert.
2005 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay
The first wine I started collecting (since 1995) and still one of Australia's best Chardonnays - although I think they have ceded the title in recent years to the likes of Bindi and Giaconda. This wine was classic Leeuwin Estate. Honeyed with ripe peach and pear. Has that "maltiness" that Leeuwin always seems to have when young and a charry oakiness that needs a few years to integrate. Lovely soft mouthfeel from traditional sur lie vinification. This wine still has its baby fat in full view and while it will be a good wine, not the best I have seen from the estate.
2006 Glaetzer Amon Ra Shiraz
Ben Glaetzer is a genius and is younger than I am! He is already making world class wine and his 2006 Amon Ra is no slouch. Rich, blackberry, spicy and deeply brooding. A softer oakiness that comes from his "new school" use of French rather than American wood. This wine is unctuous in the mouth and should be a stunner in 5 years. Kudos!
2004 Kay Brother "Block 6" Shiraz
Made with fruit from vines planted in 1892 (since phylloxera wiped out France in the late 19th Century these are probably some of the oldest vines in the world!). Aged in 100% American and Balkan oak in the traditional Australian style, this wine was a deep inky purple in the glass. Notes of pepper, blackberry and meat predominate. Cheek coating tannins. Superbly concentrated - this is a wine to enjoy on its own in your favorite chair and contemplate. A Parker favorite - he gave it 98 points!
2005 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz
Always a favorite in the Nielsen household - this is Hunter Shiraz at its finest. My experience with Graveyards is they need 10+ years to shine and this one was a tight as a drum. Just a brilliant, rich dark wine with amazing clarity. Traditional Hunter spice and sweet leather came through. Black cherry and blackberry. Its 80% new oak shows but that will mellow with its 10 years in the cellar. A little "hot" on the finish which should integrate with time (hopefully).
2005 Giaconda Warner Vineyard Shiraz
The "best in show" Shiraz for me by a country mile was another Rick Kinzbrunner stunner. Floral and "blue fruit" dominant (which I love in a Shiraz) with tannins that were so soft and luscious. Boy, oh, boy this is a winner!
2005 John Duval "Entity" Shiraz
Deep purple, blackcurrant and blackberry. Big robust tannins says "age me! age me!". Lovely spiciness and some oak that needs time to integrate. A super long finish - ahhh, this is wine! Incredibly well constructed wine that shows off John's skills from his 28 years at Penfolds including 16 years of being in charge of "Grange". Get in on this one before the world catches on!