Tuesday 31 July 2012

O'Leary Walker Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2012

This is Sauvignon Blanc. Take a sniff!

A mere 100mL and a quick swirl of the glass produced a bouquet which left me mesmerised.

The aromas presented here where like that of a UFC fighter released from his shackles and giving a quick jab to the nose. But as I stood there dazed I couldn't help but go back for more.

Only released  recently on 1 July, cut grass, morning dew, passionfruit, gooseberry all throw out a welcome mat. And just as you think you are left at the door, they reappear on the palate all fused together perfectly.

Clean, fresh, lively, the passionfruit flavours take the prize for me. A most enjoyable drop and very well priced, here is further proof of two things - Australians make brilliant Sauvignon Blanc and the Adelaide Hills produce this country's best of that variety.

Who: O'Leary Walker http://www.olearywalkerwines.com/
What: Sauvignon Blanc (12% alc)
Where: Adelaide Hills
When: 2012
How: $17.50

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Friday 27 July 2012

Yering Station Shiraz Viognier 2008

Co-fermented in new and old French oak, the wine delivers a bright colour and a nose of pretty spring flowers wrapped up in gentle spice. A drop of Viognier (5%) adds to the aromatics beautifully.

The palate possessed an enduring warmth highlighted by attractive fruit and a bucket load of berry flavour. A savory component rolled out at the end of the finish which was delicious. All elements just come together in this wine and sing harmoniously.

Elegant and soft, the length and mouthfeel was superb.

An absolutely brilliant wine, and for $28, it is a ripper deal.

Who: Yering Station http://www.yering.com/
What: Shiraz Viognier (14.5% alc)
Where: Yarra Valley
When: 2008
How: $28

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Hidden Creek Verdelho 2011

A refreshing style Verdelho that is just a good solid drop.

Granite Belt fruit, this possesses a typical Verdelho nose with tropical fruit. It's fresh and I even detect some pawpaw. A little dry on the palate, but it is clean and has a little textural element to keep you intrigued. Tropical fruit flavours wash around your mouth leaving a pleasant finish.

Guzzle on its own or bring on the seafood.

Who: Hidden Creek http://www.hiddencreek.com.au/
What: Verdelho
Where: Granite Belt
When: 2010
How: $18

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Wednesday 25 July 2012

BK Wines Syrah Nouveau 2011

Part of the BK Wines Summer Series of wines, the Syrah Nouveau is made for sharing with friends and food.

Bright appearance, the nose oozes white pepper and cherry compote and these flavours are evident on the palate. On the lighter side of medium bodied finishing with dusty tannins, the wine easily lends itself to food. The fruit doesn't kick on as much as I would have liked, but if you a downing this with a summer BBQ, who would care?

Lamb with cous cous salad and this gear would make really good friends.

Who: BK Wines http://www.bkwines.com.au/
What: Syrah (12.5% alc)
Where: Adelaide Hills
When: 2011
How: $21
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Briar Ridge Karl Stockhausen Signature Release Semillon 2012

A new vintage release straight off the bottling line.

Named after and made by one of the pioneers and a "Living Legend" of the Hunter Valley, Karl Stockhausen, who has been guest winemaker at Briar Ridge for many years.

This label has produced magnificent wines for many years and this one is up there with them.

A nose of lemon juice, cut grass and a touch of gooseberry. These flavours flow gently onto the palate which is soft and balanced (11.2%). The acid is gentle and unobtrusive, factors which can be a detractor in young Semillon - certainly not the case here. The palate is zesty and left clean with lingering flavours.

I enjoyed this with some Vietnamese rice paper rolls and it went down a treat. As the locals would say, "Semsational!"

Made to enjoy now, but equally it has plenty of long dark days in the cellar should you have the patience to hold on to it, for which the reward will be magic.

Who: Briar Ridge http://www.briarridge.com.au/
What: Semillon (11.2% alc)
Where: Hunter Valley
When: 2012
How: $26
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Monday 23 July 2012

Auldstone Cellars Riesling 2010

This was a pretty impressive package. I love coming across wines from small operators who do something a little different.

Glenrowan is of course better known for Ned Kelly and not Riesling, and this was a welcome surprise.

Only two years old from the 2010 vintage, the wine was clearly into the bottle age stage of development.

Deep golden colour, plenty of citrus, honey and preserved lemon characters on the nose. You could be fooled for thinking this was at least twice the age.

Generous lemon and citrus flavours on the palate highlighted by soft acid, yet the wine was complex and finished with a ever lasting length.

Stands up to the Riesling kings of South Australia.

Who: Auldstone Cellars http://www.auldstone.com.au/
What: Riesling (11.5% alc)
Where: Glenrowan
When: 2010
How: $19

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Friday 20 July 2012

She-Oak Hill Shiraz 2009

Wow! This is the business!!

I have a secret love affair with Heathcote Shiraz and after a quick whiff of this, it's no wonder.

Perhaps it's the red Cambrian soils, the cool climate, or even the juicy Shiraz which is consistently produced. Whatever the reason my subconscious has tucked away, I can't help but keep coming back.

Produced by a small family operation, this Shiraz has a deep purple colour. The bouquet is alluring with deep concentrated fruit, some spice and a hint of sweetness. The wine sat in French oak barriques for 20-22 months which brushes the palate perfectly.

Big juicy fruit, well rounded and balanced, the spice and fruit ratio is bang on target. Excellent length on palate and a silky smooth finish.

Some serious get up here indeed!

Who: She-Oak Hill http://www.sheoakhill.com.au/
What: Shiraz (14.8% alc)
Where: Heathcote
When: 2009
How: $30

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Thursday 19 July 2012

Swirl Sniff Spit - Granite Belt night July 2012

Swirl Sniff Spit is a proud group of Queenslanders who get together on the third Tuesday of each month to learn and share in wines from many regions and of various varieties. The time had come to dip into our own backyard and see what is kicking around on the Granite Belt.

The Granite Belt is Queensland's premier wine region and boasts some of the highest (most between 850-950m) and coldest vineyards in Australia. Last week the temperature dropped to -9C! I recently enjoyed an excellent weekend in the region. Check out my adventure here.

Poor granite soils dominate the vineyards and the vines struggle to produce their fruit, yet the fruit which is the result delivers a handy product.

Getting the word out about the Granite Belt is a struggle at times too as the vast majority of wineries rely on Cellar Door sales to move the wine to the consumer. Quantities produced by the wineries are small compared to southern counterparts and therefore it is hard to get into the big players in the retail sector. Recent years have seen more and more Granite Belt wineries creeping into the retail market which is a pleasing sign for them.

Glen Robert
 We were privileged to have the company of two winemakers on the evening - Glen Robert from Bent Road Winery and Warren Smith from Pyramids Road Wines. Both shared their tremendous knowledge and passion on various topics through the night including the use of oak, wild yeast, blending, and more. Much more. Many thanks to you both for your company and sharing your valuable time.

The wines selected for the evening were done to showcase the region and wines with a point of difference.

Warren Smith
Many eyebrows were raised through the night and the quality of the wines shone through. Big thanks to the wineries who sent through samples and for being so keen to participate.

So to the wines....

Bent Road Marsanne 2011 http://www.bentroadwine.com.au/
Lean and clean. Made in the aperitif style (10.7% alc). Lemons. Damn this is seriously good!

Cypress Post Viognier Marsanne 2011 http://www.cypresspost.com.au/
Nose of apricot and paw paw. Apricot and peachy flavours on the palate. An oily feel on the palate too which adds some interest. A great food wine (14% alc).

Ridgemill Estate Chardonnay 2011 http://www.ridgemillestate.com/
Funky as!! Wild ferment, taken off lees to remove buttery characteristics. Mustard seeds, oyster shell, toasted almonds, and herby characters all on the nose. The palate was awash with stone fruit flavours. A Chardonnay with a difference and very yummy!

Ravens Croft Chardonnay 2011 http://www.ravenscroftwines.com.au/
Fruit sourced from Bungawarra Wines at Ballandean. A tight and toasty nose with butterscotch. Lees stirred. 25% was wild fermented and 25% Malo. New oak was used (50%) and of this, it was an even split between French and American. Cashews leap out. It was likened to a Pinot Gris by some. Fruit screaming loudly. Lean, pear and even apple. Well made and some serious delish factor!

Ridgemill Estate Tempranillo 2009 http://www.ridgemillestate.com/
A good whiff of oak, dark cherries and herb. Minimal acid, A lovely rounded palate with juicy fruit and good length. Impressive.

Hidden Creek Tempranillo 2009 http://www.hiddencreek.com.au/
Plummy and savoury with enjoyable length. A little firmer tannin mouthfeel. Bold style typical of Spain. Winemaker Jim Barnes has spent vintage time in Spain and modelled his Tempranillo on that experience. This won plenty of fans.

Boireann La Cima Barbera 2008 http://www.boireannwinery.com.au/
Cherries, plummy, rounded with a touch of spice. Soft and very approachable. Acid noticeable. Have a plate of salami handy and load up!

Summit Estate Queensland Cabernets 2009 http://www.summitestate.com.au/
A fruit salad of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Fragrent violets prominent. Intense concentration of blackberry fruit on the palate. A big wine yet classy with a long, lingering finish.

Witches Falls Prophecy Syrah http://www.witchesfalls.com.au/
Soft yet has an acid edge which points to plenty of aging potential. Fruit abundant with oak adding to the profile nicely. Spice, pepper, cherries all kicking on. Tannins complement the wine very well. Many stood up and took notice.

Bent Road Syrah Cabernets 2009 http://www.bentroadwine.com.au/
Soft and elegant with complexity. Super long and delicious finish. Fruit punches through very well. A well made wine in a tough vintage. Value deluxe at $19!

Golden Grove Durif 2010 http://www.goldengroveestate.com.au/
Big black fruit flavours. Sexy earthiness. American oak creeping in. The palate is coated with softness and a savoury finish to wrap it all up. Super drinkability.

Pyramids Road Wines Mourvedre 2011 http://www.pyramidsroad.com.au/
Has only been in the bottle six weeks. A European style Mourvedre - bright nose, acid driven, bone dry and finishes with chalky tannins. Very impressive and the best of it is yet to come. The crew LOVED it!

Ballandean Estate Sylvaner 2005 http://www.ballandeanestate.com/
Late harvest. Rated the best in the world by some judges. Honey, apricots and citrus peel nose. Canned tropical fruit, marmalade and rockmelon palate. Clean finish. Damn fine!

Witches Falls Botryis Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008 http://www.witchesfalls.com.au/
Oh sweet mumma! This is super delish and it is hard to stop sipping. A good whiff of stone fruits and citrus. Palate of apricots and peaches. Well balanced. Palate flush with sticky goodness. It would be rude to not lick the glass.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Chalk Hill Vermentino 2011

Vermentino is making a name for itself on the Australian wine scene. Many of the vines around the country are only young yet they are starting to reap some excellent reward.

Some examples which spring to mind are the brilliant Yalumba Y Series Vermentino 2011 which recently won a Top Gold in its class at the Royal Queensland Wine Show 2012 (and only around $10!!), whilst also at the same show was the Granite Belt's Golden Grove Vermentino which also won Top Gold in its class - second time in a row mind you and only two vintages into a distinguished run!

So I then turn to this beauty from Chalk Hill and once again, young vines kicking some massive goals. This wine is the first release Vermentino from this McLaren Vale producer, and as I've said before, here lies another reason for Australians to ditch the retail love affair with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and discover the wonders of what we are producing in our own backyard.

Vermentino hails from Italy and is finding Australian soils to be a more than suitable home. This is some seriously good drinking here. Only 10.5% alcohol, you are greeted with fresh cut herbs, tropical fruit salad, a touch of lemon and the slight whiff of marigold flower. The palate is clean and fresh, full of tropical fruit goodness. Lemons wash around in the background building the flavour profile nicely, and these flavours bounce around like a prize fighter. Some zesty elements and a minerality texture add to this delicious wine. A crisp and clean finish, a brilliant way to share a on its own, or with a salad, seafood and some good company.

Do yourself a favour and see for yourself why Vermentino is kicking some goals, and getting your mitts on this Chalk Hill effort is a superb starting point.

Who: Chalk Hill Wines http://www.chalkhill.com.au/
What: Vermentino (10.5% alc)
Where: McLaren Vale
When: 2011
How: $18

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Monday 16 July 2012

Barwang Pinot Gris 2011

I was already thinking about summer time when I looked at this. The fruit is drawn from three cool climate regions: Tumbarumba, Tasmania and Adelaide Hills.

Light and pale straw in colour, you get a good whiff of fresh cut apple, green apple peel, pear, and a touch of vanilla.

Clean and fresh flavours of apple and pear highlight the palate. A good dash of minerality too which kicks along the interest factor. Having been left on lees of four months, the texture punches through nicely.

Good length on the finish, and for the money, it's a pretty decent drop.

It's vibrant. It's very refreshing. It's worth a look.

Who: Barwang www.mcwilliams.com.au/our-brands/barwang
What: Pinot Gris (13.5% alc)
Where: Tumbarumba, Tasmania & Adelaide Hills
When: 2011
How: $18

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Friday 13 July 2012

Chalk Hill "The Procrastinator" 2010

I first came across this wine a few years ago, and apart from the name which sticks in your mind without too much trouble, it was the fact there was no oak present whatsoever. That's right, the fruit was king and shone like a beacon with not even a splinter in sight.

This particular vintage of The Procrastinator is a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with percentages of 65/20/15 respectively, but this time some oak has been integrated. The use of two and three year old oak for 12-15 months has continued to enable the fruit to power though and do all the talking. Previous vintages have been 100% Cabernet Franc - some serious wow factor there!

As I looked at this wine, the three varieties used became obvious, all playing their part and contributing to a wine of very good value ($18). The Cabernet Franc is first up creating a great yet supple presence. This peels off to the Merlot which moves further through the palate finishing with Cabernet Sauvignon wrapping up the package and leaving you something to think about.

A touch of violets on the nose, a little black pepper and a squirt of raspberries, the bouquet is dominated by big blackberry fruit. These characteristics shift to the palate where they are clearly evident providing juicy wine. Well rounded and balanced, the finish is soft and smooth which lingers for longer than a minute.

Seriously good stuff.

Partner with a nice piece of meat or a roast and a big smile is sure to follow.

Who: Chalk Hill Wines http://www.chalkhill.com.au/
What: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon blend (13.5% alc)
Where: McLaren Vale
When: 2010
How: $18

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Monday 9 July 2012

Majella Coonawarra Merlot 2010

This Merlot from Majella jumps from the glass. Absolutely superb it was!

Being only the fourth vintage despite the vines being planted a decade ago, it possessed a super juicy and vibrant nose. The aromas were very inviting indeed highlighted by some earthy characters which flowed onto the palate nicely. Some aniseed wafts across ever so slightly too.

The palate was juicy with the flavours well balanced. Very smooth throughout and the excellent length drew me in for more. Fourteen months on French Oak has added to the profile of the wine beautifully.

Very impressive with at least five years left in it.

Who: Majella http://www.majellawines.com.au/
What: Merlot (14% alc)
Where: Coonawarra
When: 2010
How: $28

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Saturday 7 July 2012

Heggies Riesling 2012

A simple Riesling here which doesn't set the world alight. It's just a good drink without scaling any great heights.

Light tropical fruit on nose, I also detect a syrupy lime aroma.

The palate is clean with lime flavours coming to the fore. Average length with a little acid kick on exit, this wine will satisfy you on at a lazy Sunday afternoon lunch. Drink now.

Who: Heggies http://www.heggiesvineyard.com/
What: Riesling
Where: Eden Valley
When: 2012
How: $16

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Ghost Rock Pinot Gris 2011

A relatively young winery from Tasmania which was established in 2001. Clean, fresh, this wine is lip smacking good!

All elements of the wine are in sync producing a very easy drinking Pinot Gris.

From central Tasmania, the wine opens with a bouquet of stone fruit, honey dew melon and a light brush of spring flowers. These fruit flavours present on a delicious palate which is clean and refreshing. Acid is well balanced and the length has some textural notes for interest. I couldn't help but keep topping up my glass.

Vibrant and ridiculously approachable, gee I enjoyed this. Next glass please!

Who: Ghost Rock http://www.ghostrock.com.au/
What: Pinot Gris (13% alc)
Where: Tasmania
When: 2011
How: $26
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Friday 6 July 2012

Cookoothama Botrytis Semillon 2009

This stuff makes you rub your hands together with glee. No surprise it won a Top Gold at the QLD RNA Wine Awards 2012.

Made from Riverina fruit, a lovely bouquet of reduced peach and canned peach juice. Very inviting indeed. The palate is coated generously by orange marmalade and citrus peel flavours. Good acid balance throughout and super long length wrap up a most impressive drop. Very moreish indeed.

Although only 375 ml, this is a spanking bargain for around $20. Load up and get amongst it people, you won't be disappointed.

Who: Nugan Estate http://www.nuganestate.com.au/
What: Botrytis Semillon
Where: Riverina, NSW
When: 2009
How: $23

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Thursday 5 July 2012

Being a Steward at RNA QLD Wine Show 2012

This was a tremendously eye opening experience. To see how the wines end up achieving their various medals at a show was very interesting, and perhaps not what the punters would expect.

The Commerce Building at the Brisbane RNA Showgrounds was filled with wines all filed into their various classes - 89 of them in fact. These classes vary from current vintage to one year old wines, mature wines two years and older, commercial wines of any vintage, sparkling wines and Australian Brandy.

RQWS 2012 Fact: Although overall entries were down, the number of wineries entering their wines was up.

Each winery pays an entrance fee per wine entered and five bottles of each entry need to be supplied. Judging is conducted by four panels of judges which is comprised of a senior judge and two judges. Each panel also has an associate judge who is a judge in training.

For the first time at the show the 100 point system was used. Some judges were in favour, whilst others, well, not so much. But as the show went on the doubters warmed to the easiness of the 100 point system. Once all judges had scored their wines the average score from the four judges was given as the final result. This average is not gained mathematically but via discussion and agreeing upon an appropriate score. Witnessing such discussions and how each judge justified and held their position was most interesting.

The 100 point scoring system:
Gold - 96 to 100 points
Silver - 90 to 95 points
Bronze - 84 to 89 points

Judging wines using the traditional system totalling 20 points (not used in this show):
Condition and colour - 3
Bouquet - 7
Flavour - 10

Despite the fact each class varies in the number of wines presented, by day's end all judges across all panels look at approximately the same number wines. Some judges may look at eight classes in one day yet others may only look at two. An example of this being the One Year Chardonnay class presented 91 wines. This judging panel followed this with One Year Cabernet Sauvignon which comprised of 36 wines. Another panel for example looked at five classes yet all judges looked at approximately 120 wines that day.
 An aged Semillon class presented only one wine as another example.

RQWS 2012 Fact: In a class of 102 Shiraz wines, only five were sealed with a cork

Each wine is poured for each judged and placed on a table ruled with 8cm spacing as you can see from the photo. Once the judges have completed their work they go off and discuss potential gold medals. If golds are to be awarded, the panel return to taste these wines once again which have been freshly poured. Top gold is awarded to the wine which is the highest point scorer in the field. If more than one are awarded the same score the Chief Judge is called to make a final decision and award Top Gold.

At the conclusion of judging all top gold wines are assembled to determine trophy winners.

Behind the scenes, the stewards are not only pouring wines but assembling wines on benches identical to those in the judging area. All glasses are rinsed then poured. Once ready, the class is then presented to each judge. When judging is complete the stewards remove all glasses, and move on to collecting the next class of wines for judging before the process is repeated.

Being a steward at an RNA show was a great experience, certainly a rewarding one with so much gained after being given the opportunity to rub shoulders with so many experienced and knowledgeable people in the industry.

Results for the RNA Queensland Wine Show 2012

Monday 2 July 2012

Vertical Verdelho Tasting

Australia is one of a few countries who use Verdelho as a table wine. The table wines in Portugal haven't taken off as the grapes are picked before they are ripe and persuading growers against this has proven difficult, well, so I am told.

Much of the Verdelho we see here in Australia is made for immediate consumption - intense flavours of tropical fruit leap to the fore making it a refreshing drop for a hot day, and accompanied by seafood to make the match perfect. One Verdelho I tasted recently was picked, fermented and in the bottle within six weeks!

Some wineries are using age to bring out some different characteristics in this variety. Examples that come to mind are Bent Road Winery from the Granite Belt and Heathcote producer Flynns Wines. Although these two wines are made with subtle differences, an example being some barrel age (only 3-4 months) contributing to the Flynns Verdelho which adds a creamy edge with textured notes. Winemaker Greg Flynn's intention is to show how diverse Verdelho can be.

With all this in mind I was lucky enough to indulge in a vertical tasting of some Barambah Wines Verdelho with winemaker and Australian Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith.
Something which struck my eye immediately was the label stating the wine had a cellaring potential of 2-3 years. Although this was put on the label for the consumer, the tasting demonstrated that there was plenty of kick left in these wines cellared in good conditions with some wonderful development taking place.

Barambah Verdelho 2007
Whole bunch pressed, age characteristics are clearly apparent. Dry grass, a touch of smoke, lemon sherbert and citrus oil all creating an engaging nose. The wine has moved from the fresh stage to a bottle age phase.
An appearance of pale gold with a touch of green. The palate is coated with some grassy type flavours along with reduced melon and pawpaw (13% alc). Super length of longer than a minute with a soft finish, and although the acid is still up there ever so slightly, I couldn't help to suggest that this has easily another five years of life left in it. My favourite of the three.

Barambah Verdelho 2008
Whole bunch pressed once again, this wine was the palest of the three in appearance. A herby and grassy nose with a simple palate. Simple by the way of the fact the wine is in a neutral phase of development - not fresh nor bottle age. The palate did grow after a few seconds but didn't have a the width nor breadth of the previous (12.5% alc).
There was some sweetness on the finish, and although another five years would see change, I get a sense that this vintage will fade.

Barambah 2010
A light golden appearance and heaps of fruit. Tropical fruit typical of Verdelho on the nose coupled with a smidge of honey and a banana peel aromas.
Some ever so gentle spice on the palate along with clean and refereshing tropical fruit flavours. Good acid and impressive length (13.5% alc).
Still in the fresh stage and considering the amount of fruit in this wine, I am confident this will kick on wonderfully for easily ten years. Better still, I sense it may even be in a better place than the '07 at the ten year mark.

Although the back vintages are now unavailable, the 2010 is ready to go and will definitely reward patience. Well priced for $19, a Sample Taste Six Pack special is currently available with three whites ('09 Unwooded Chardonnay, '10 Verdelho, '10 Classic White) and three reds ('09 Shiraz, '08 Shiraz Viognier, '08 Selection Red) for $88 with free delivery.

Who: Barambah http://www.barambah.com.au/
What: First Grid Verdelho
Where: South Burnett, Queensland
When: 2007, 2008, 2010
How: $19

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