Three more vintage ports

1996 ch reynella vp again

1996 Chateau Reynella Vintage port 19%
Shiraz, McLaren Vale, bottle #532. Served blind.
Ruby with some bricking, dark berries, mint and camphor. Sweet dark berry flavours, mocha, liquorice, sweet spices, ample tannin but absolutely ready to drink.
Drink to 2030, 92 points. (an uncanny similar description to my post from March this year)

1980 warre's vp

1980 Warre’s Vintage Port 20%
Portugal. Served blind.
Ruby colour, camphor, cardamon, wax, putty. I was suspicious that there was a faint whisp of TCA, but it was invisible on the palate, so I relented. Palate is soft, with mocha and some figgy character with headsy spirit. This is a wine where the fruit was playing second fiddle to the spirit, but the whole seemed better than its components
Drink to 2030, 92 points (and there may be better bottles around)

1980 taylors vp

1980 Taylor’s Vintage Port  
Portugal. Served blind.
Ruby colour, with some browning. Putty, cherry and almond. Palate drier than Australian, with marzipan and cherry; spirit slightly sharp, but a winner on the flavour persistence stakes.
My initial age range was 1975-1985, and when options came up as 77/80/83 I correctly selected 1980. (However, I got the house wrong- I don’t drink enough Portuguese VPs!)
Drink to 2035, 94 points

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Three from Europe

2007 schafer-frohlich

2007 Schafer-frohlich Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Spatlese AP#26 7.5%
Nahe (near Mosel), with its cork in good condition.

Golden colour, vibrant redcurrant, musk, spices, marzipan and tropical scents. The palate is viscous and leans into red apple notes, mandarine, honey and is still crisp. Guessing around 75g/l residual sugar, and balanced. Peak drinking now, and is yet another instance of “double-barreled or not-easy-to-pronounce name = bargain price”.

Drink to 2027 and 93 points.

2011 Ch Haut Bergeron (Sauternes) 13.5%
Not in the 1855 classification, but produces some terrific, and underpriced wines. 80-90% Semillon and 10-20% sauvignon blanc, the wine swallows the oak.

Pear, honey, marmalade; obvious, authentic and excellent Sauternes. This is a “power” style, but irresistibly delicious.

Drink to 2030, 93 points

2014 Ch Coutet (Barsac) 14%
75% semillon, 23% sav blanc, and 2% muscadelle. 162 g/l residual sugar! 18 months in French oak barrels

From the ripe 2014, and this is just beginning to give glimpses of its future. It was served as a masked pair with the previous wine, and showed more honeyed notes and finesse on the palate. It seemed less ripe, but showed more lemon blossom. Finer, but at this stage more reticent

Drink to 2035, 92 points now, but more in the future.

Australia’s move to a Republic

Professor Albert Pedant (MA Hons- Lagos, PhD – American Samoa) – emeritus adjunct professor at the online university of Woolloomooloo, has diligently researched the history of numerous Australian wine brands and labels. His treatise (2018) on Clonakilla, Hill of Grace, Para Port, and Grange Hermitage was acclaimed with international renown, numerous awards and academic prizes.

A recent lecture is reprinted with kind permission.

“It may surprise that I welcome the Republican movement in Australia, and its inevitable success.

Some imagine that historians seek merely to preserve the past, wallowing in its nostalgic fascinations. But time’s arrow moves only forwards. Australia demands a citizen of its own as Head of State. But apart from the formalities and constitutional minutiae, there are consequential effects.

The necessary changes will be profound, and this will be a challenge to historians to ensure that heritage is properly preserved, documented, and archived; not neglected, discarded, or destroyed.

Let me run through some instances.

Thankfully, Australian coins will be updated and lose the unwelcome effigy of a foreign monarch on one side; perhaps we can see the return of animals depicted on the superseded one and two cent coins – the feather-tailed glider and the frilled-neck lizard- there will be many others that can fill the spaces on higher-denomination coins. It is of course a convenient and blatant falsehood that existing coinage currency will become worthless within the Republic because of the existence of the monarchs effigy. Of course, the disappearance of the effigy will bring confusion over the traditional coin toss call of “heads or tails?”, and make basic student studies of probability more troublesome. “Two-up” will disappear.

References to the King (and the former Kings and Queens) will be removed. This applies to buildings, institutions, societies and charities. For example, The Royal Childrens’ Hospitals (several in Australia), Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Princess Theatre, Prince’s Park, Sovereign Hill, Royal Australian College of Surgeons (and many more medical specialties), The Royal Mint, the Royal Australian Army, Navy, and Air Force, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, and the RSPCA. There will be no more Royal Commissions, no more Kings and Queens of Moomba.

Any hotels etc with Royal, King, Queen, Prince, Princess, Knight, Duke, Duchess, Baron, Lord, Earl, Countess, Viscount – or similar, including Crown Casino- will need new names and demand follow-on actions.

Next, there is a plethora of affected streets, towns and place names – Royal Parade, Queens Parade, the Princes Highway, Kingsway, Queenscliff, Queenstown, even Queensland (hopefully replaced with a memorable first nations name). Clearly, Victoria and Adelaide also stand on shaky ground.

Many parks, clubs – particularly Golf, Tennis, and Yachting – plus assorted University residential colleges will be affected, losing their “royal” connections.

The Holden Kingswood will be banned (although possibly permitted as a veteran vehicle) and Kingswood Country series streaming, DVD, blu-rays etc will be withdrawn. Crown Lager will be rebadged. Imports of Royal Doulton and Royal Albert tableware will cease. The beloved biscuit the Chocolate Royal will need a new moniker.

Danaus plexippus,  (the Monarch butterfly), Alisterus scapularis (the King parrot), and Aptenodytes patagonicus (King penguin), will require new common names.

Portraits of the royal family will be removed from public venues, providing opportunities for replacement local artworks to be displayed. Private displays in houses will be allowed, though naturally discouraged.

All citizens with affected family names will be required to alter these, and have passports, drivers’ licences, Medicare, credit cards and so on re-issued. The deceased are exempt, and gravestones and memorials will not need an update.

Clearly the overall cost will be substantial, with special benefits to the legal fraternity. Most wills, trusts, and corporate entities will require scrutiny, and numerous trademark, domain names, email addresses will be altered. Logos, signage, advertising, stationary, business cards, and much more. Legislative and statutory references to “the Crown” will be substituted.

What a boon for the economy! What a gift for my profession, as well as genealogy; with alas unwelcome opportunities for scammers, identity fraud and theft.

My own connection to wine and its intricacies is substantive. Immediate ramifications loom for the King Valley, McLaren Vale’s Bushing King, the Barons of Barossa, Ross Duke, Bruce Dukes, Narelle King, Llew Knight, Prince Albert, Tony Royal, Yangarra Kings’ Wood Shiraz. And many more!

Will the mooted transition period of two years suffice? There will not be so-called grandfathering, so speed is of the essence. I congratulate the foresight of leading barristers who became SC’s instead of clinging to the now-superseded QC (Queen’s Counsel) title.

I welcome the transformational challenges of the Republic of Australia, and am comforted that my companies (and those of my colleagues and peers) have consulting rates that are reasonable considering the monumental complexities involved.

In summary, the changes caused by the move to a Republic will make the introduction of decimal currency, the metric system, Y2K preparations and the introduction of the GST look elementary. Eventually, the Australian flag will change too, becoming something more authentic, presenting a boon to manufacturers, and a facelift for places where flags are flown.

In this brief lecture, I have only touched on a few of the essential considerations, and there are many more examples I could have provided, if my emolument tonight was greater.

My study tour of former monarchies that became Republics is only scheduled to last for three years; I hope this will be sufficient; my funding is guaranteed- curiously by institutions and benefactors on both sides of the debate, a testament to my diligence and foresight.

Lastly, there will be a pressing need for an official organisation to provide clarity and guidance before, and throughout the transition, issuing definitive judgements in case of disputes. My anticipated appointment as head of the Institute of Republic Arbitration (IRA), is an honour, and certainly not an imperial honour.”

Two lovely sweet Rieslings

2016 pressong matters r139

2016 Pressing Matters R139 Riesling 9.4%
Tasmania- Coal River valley, screwcap (half bottle, a recent auction purchase)

Pressing Matters are known for their Rieslings (R0, R9, R69, R139), and Pinot Noir, with amazing records in Australian wine shows. Limited distribution, so I’m absolutely, shamefully behind tasting across their range. The current release 2019 R139 is $37 for a half-bottle.

Bright gold colour, ripe red Apple and beurre bosc pear, with a frame of spices. Hooray, there’s enough acidity to balance the high residual sugar level, and this is pretty hard to resist. There’s varietal lime and citrus, and a long, and truly satisfying fresh textural finish. Exceptional value here too. The usual caveats with food matches- fresh fruits work; fruit pies will work if gentle on the sugar side, some cheeses will succeed, and some won’t; but the bottle contents will seemingly evaporate regardless. A find!

Drink to 2028, and 93 points.

2007 schloss bjs spat

2007 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese AP#8, 9%
Mosel, 94 g/l residual sugar

Light lemon colour, and then the marvels come. Cinnamon, icing sugar, pear, nectarine. Crunchy apple, flint, creamed honey and beautiful balance between fruit depth, acidity and sweetness. (I wrote about this wine in April 2020, with similar descriptors, scores etc).

This is an absolutely delightful spatlese (from a distinguished site), and my patience has been truly rewarded.
Drink to 2030, 94 points

Two enjoyable sweeties

2009 ch raymond lafon

2009 Ch Raymond-Lafon 13.5%
Sauternes, 136 g/l residual sugar. Half bottle

80% Semillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc, aged in new barrels for three years. Bright deep gold colour, pear-juice meets apricots, white peach and marmalade, backed up with a solid citrus line. Honey and spices resound on the opulent palate with some almond and marzipan. Voluptuous, fresh and morish. A reliable bargain VFM producer. Authentic.

93 points, and drink to 2027 while its fresh. Full bottles will have a longer life span.

2016 tim adams botrytis

2016 Tim Adams botrytis Riesling 11%
Clare Valley. 87 g/l residual sugar. Snapped up this half bottle recently from my local DM for $13.

Light bright clear gold colour; apricot and yellow peach, dusted with cinnamon and ginger; palate is syrupy/viscous but beautifully fresh with a zingy citrus finish. Good mix of botrytis while retaining varietal character. Really doesn’t need more time and will match up a treat with a fresh fruit platter.

Drink to 2027, and 90 points

Musings on Australian grenache – two

Soon after I posted my thoughts about Australian Grenache, I came across a set of youtube postings from Erin Larkin. These very recent episodes are about 10-15 minutes long, and well worth the investment of time.

Part 1– with Toby Bekkers

Part 2– with Giles Cooke (Thistledown)

Part 3– with Pete Fraser (Yangarra) and Stephen Pannell (SC Pannell)

“5 in 5” – five McLaren Vale Grenaches tasted

Read some great insights from Tony Love plus reviews of recent McLaren Vale grenache.

And an older- 90 minute- Wine Australia Webinar moderated by Sarah Ahmed (sept 2020) with Giles Cooke and David Gleave– Thistledown – about new-wave McLaren Vale grenache, as it rattles through tasting twelve wines and talking about the winemakers philosophy. Long, but plenty of educational nuggets here.

There are also some free modules on the Wine Australia education site  about grenache and another on McLaren Vale. You need to sign up, but there is no cost.

If you don’t learn, and see some of the excitement, you are beyond help.

One local, one “near-local”

2013 felton

2013 Felton Road Riesling 9.5%
Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand. Screwcap, 62 g/l residual sugar.
Still a youthful lemon colour; lime and grapefruit with a tropical fruit basket and Germanic petroleum; the palate has plenty of vitality, with a flinty, mineral twang rolling along with apple, talc and lime. Super fun.

Drink to 2030, 92 points

2000 morris vp

2000 Morris Vintage Port 19%
Rutherglen, Victoria
Served blind, no trouble nailing this as Australian, albeit drier than most. Blackcurrant, chalk, fine cocoa, abundant spices and quality spirit.  With a significant proportion of Portuguese grape varieties, I settled on the mid-late 1990s, with Rutherglen as the likely origin…. except the unveiling showed 100% Shiraz. Its label was adorned with credible Australian wine show gold and trophy bling. Delicious, persistent, and no hurry here.

Easily 93 points, and drink to 2032

Catching up with some wines

2012 felton rd riesling

2012 Felton Road Riesling 8.5%
Bannockburn, Central Otago, New Zealand. Screwcap, 64 g/l residual sugar. Lemon/gold colour, lime cordial and nectarine scents, red apple with a dusting of icing sugar; red apple again with some grippiness on the palate; flinty and convincing, even though the sweetness is spatlese-level.

Drink to 2025, 90 points

old ch gilette

1996 and 1997 Ch Gilette Crème de tete  (sauternes)90% semiilon,8% sav blanc, 2% muscadelle.  A curio, as the chateau ages the wines in concrete tanks for around twenty years prior to bottling. I will seek help from the boffins to understand how the wine remains sound under the circumstances. No oak!

These were served as a blind pair, and I was confident that they were Sauternes from the late 1990s. Both gold in colour, I found the 1997 to be a bit cloying, medicinal and varnishy. Relatively light-bodied, grapey with muscat-like overtones, and some stonefruit beneath. The 1996 had more depth, and more acidity, with marzipan, marmalade and mixed nuts over ripe stonefruit and citrus.

Very different wines, with the “other” bottles of the 1997 apparently better. I went in search but found the contents had “evaporated”. Curios certainly, but still an exercise in intrigue.

Drink soon; I rated the 1996 at 92 points; the 1997 at 86 points.

2001 Taylors Vargellas Vintage Port 20%
Served blind, this was obviously Portuguese, with its floral rose, violet, and spice notes, backed up by dark plum and berry flavours and a dry, long, chalky profile on the palate. It didn’t quite have the finesse of a truly serious VP, so my thoughts ran to a “lesser vintage or house”, and I was speculating on a year in the 1980s. Wrong! Much younger, but a terrific result from an undeclared year.

Drink to 2030 and 92 points.

Musings about Australian grenache 1

This is a stray, off-theme post about my recent excitement, fascination, and obsession with modern Australian Grenache. It’s had a huge historical presence within Australia, but setting aside its contribution to fortified wines, there haven’t been many varietal table wines that scaled the heights.

Of course, there have been honourable exceptions; some Hardy’s wines have proven Grenache’s longevity (a recent 1997 showed up well); the 2016 Turkey Flat famously won a Jimmy Watson trophy. Yet until recently, Grenache’s unfortified best seemed to be in rosé- style wines (a la Provence).

I have been a follower of SC Pannells grenache stylings for a few years (the Smart, the Old MacDonald and several blends) but apart from that, there weren’t many thrills. My view is that wineries regarded their red wine Shiraz, and Cabernet as their meal tickets – Grenache was an afterthought –picked when convenient, stored where convenient, treated cursorily.

But only a few years ago, some winemakers and companies realised that they had a treasure. They had the seriously old-vine resources (those that remained after the misguided vine-pull scheme). Earlier picking, treatment in older, larger oak, or concrete, or amphora, extended skin contact etc made a huge difference and the transformation began. Yalumba in the Barossa has many individual grenache releases, but the action really seems to be in McLaren Vale. Here, wines from Blewitt Springs can be world-class, but there’s terrific examples from Clarendon, and the less-known “outliers” Seaview and Onkaparinga Hills, plus the ability to blend across sites.

Stephen Pannell commented ”All I have to do is counteract the two misguided extremes of varietal style: sweet and syrupy at one end, under-ripe, tannin-free giggle juice at the other.  Truly great Grenache is neither.  Truly great Grenache has aromatics and texture with vibrance and energy. It unfurls gradually with air and, most importantly, speaks clearly of soil and season”.

What is the excitement? Red fruits with intrigue not just confined to raspberry, rose-hip, rhubarb, cherry, blood orange, grapefruit, sometimes violets, seaweed, red liquorice, blueberry, saltbush, and other exotics with an array of spices and incense. Fruit abundance not smeared with excessive oak, there’s tannins and longevity, and it’s ultra food-friendly. There’s an instant fruit hit, but easy to forecast equal joy with five-to-eight years cellaring.

My first visit To McLaren Vale for ten years was only a few months ago and I tasted some thrilling Grenache examples; in a rush of enthusiasm many more were purchased with very few disappointments. Plus many of the winemakers freely name acknowledge the growers.

I have not appended tasting notes or scores fore these Grenaches, but the meagre-cropping 2020 vintage was matched in quality by the 2021s I have tasted. I have been impressed enough to purchase (alphabetically, McLaren Vale unless noted) with very approximate prices. There are many more untasted, but there are limits both to my wallet, and drinking capacity.

Adelina (Clare Valley) 2021 $55

Bekkers 2020 (not cheap, $90 but the quality is riveting)

Cirillo “the Vincent”  2021 (Barossa)  $25 – outrageous VFM from old vines, but needs significant time in a decanter to strut

De Bortoli “wizardry” (Heathcote) $20 Bargain, short-term; with a more up-market amphora “Phi”

In Praise of shadows 2021 ($30)

Krondorf Founders View 2020 (Barossa) short-term, but outstanding $25 VFM)

Paralian 2020 and 2021 – Blewitt Springs, special VFM and quality ($45), the Shiraz is a ripper too

SC Pannell 2020 Smart, and Old McDonald ($70); the “Vale” blend is also eminently cellarworthy

Seppeltsfield “village” 2021 (Barossa) $30 intense, and fleshy. Don’t let “joven” deter you.

Thistledown There’s probably 10 grenaches in their kitbag, with the Sands of time well regarded, but thrills aplenty with Vagabond ($60) and I’m working my way through other 2021s

Vanguardist “V” 2020, Blewitt Springs ($50)

Varney 2021 ($35)

Willunga 100 2020 (Blewitt springs) $45; A range of Grenaches made; this stood out

Yangarra Blewitt Springs. The High Sands is admirable, but not immediately hedonistic; the Ovitelli and Hickinbotham (Clarendon  ($75) stir my senses.

I have not canvassed GSM blends; I am torn between the intellectual notion of site/terroir vs the bitter experience that many blends are not an attempt to make a better wine, but odds and ends thrown together, or an effort to “rescue” a batch in an attempt to cover its deficiencies.

I have also not covered the excitement of some of the Spanish Garnache blends nor some of the Southern Rhone (and yes, I have tasted several Ch Rayas).

Curiously, I think that some of the care taken with Grenache in McLaren Vale has benefited the approach taken with Shiraz too. These seem to have more freshness and are not mono-dimensional dark chocolate exemplars. I further speculate that experiences with tannin management with Nebbiolo, Nero etc have infiltrated the approach to Grenache.

But the lesson is – go forth and try some of these wines; my preconceptions were outmoded; I hope my clever and influential readers are encouraged to experiment, gain thrills and spread the word; classy wines are so close, and the prices are more than fair.

One big bottle – 1990 Buller Vintage Port 20.8% (magnum #310)

Rutherglen Shiraz, but possibly with some Swan Hill fruit and perhaps some Portuguese varieties too! Who would know? What crazy person buys a magnum of a fortified (guilty) – yet 10 people over a long lunch left only perhaps 400ml, which is a hearty recommendation of the wine’s drinkability.

Buller’s was an obligatory first stop when visiting Rutherglen – its bird park an irresistible and unfailing attraction for my children, and a welcome chance to stretch out after a long car journey.

1990 bullers vp

The wine was a  bit advanced for its age – and a very ordinary cork- but forgiven for its deliciousness factor. Ultra-clean, likely neutral (SVR) spirit, there’s a wisp of mint/menthol/wintergreen; it’s very sweet and soft and densely packed with mocha and blackberry. Just the wine to soothe over a winter fire with witty conversation or a sparkling comedy.

Drink to 2030, 91 points