Two sweet old world wines

2007 von Schubert Maximin Grunhaus Herrenberg Riesling Auslese 8%
Mosel, Germany. A clear dark straw colour, this wine from Maximin Grunhaus shows tropical fruit especially mango plus a touch of mint. The palate is slightly oily, with some bitter herb, ripe red berry and red apple. It’s not the sweetest Auslese -style encountered (although acidity is balanced). Some grippiness is evident but not unduly intrusive – and my preference would be for earlier drinking while this wine retains its fruity zestiness.

In the likely realm of bottle variation, drink to 2025, 90 points

1964 Moulin Touchais 12%
Loire, Chenin blanc. The Loire valley is home to a range of chenin blanc from dry to botrytised (and other varieties). Chenin Blanc’s versatility means it can produce sparkling wines, the dry Savennières and sweeter styles but I seldom see the wines of Bonnezeaux or Quarts de Chaume in Australia. Chenin blanc in Australia however is generally innocuous, although it was once a mainstay of Houghton White Burgundy and I recall a stunning botrytis example in the 1981 St Leonards. I have also tasted some delicious South African examples.

The sweet wines from Moulin Touchais have a reputation for extreme longevity, and I’ve tasted other examples from Marc Bredif back to 1959, and have a few Domaine Huet tucked away. The Moulin Touchais wines are apparently picked in two passes – the first early while it is full of acidity, and a later harvest when it has ripened further; these are then blended.

1964 moulin

The bottle was opened and decanted at a restaurant and I didn’t see the cork, alas. The wine was a glowing gold in colour and showed the tell-tale varietal apple aromas, with some honeysuckle and spiced sultana notes. There was also a touch of straw oxidation, but not disconcerting, the palate exhibited wax, apple, honey,  citrus, some nuttiness and refreshing texture – and at a guess 50 g/l residual sugar. There was plenty of life in this old wine, and it seemed to become richer, more mouthfilling, vigorous and harmonious over the evening, and it matched particularly well with fish courses.

Again, at this stage of life, variation is expected, and I was well pleased with the result, especially the improvement with extensive aeration.  Drink to 2030, and 92 points.

Fun and learnings at a recent wine show

I was a steward for several days (my sixth stewarding experience so far); after the preliminaries of proving my valid RSA (responsible service of alcohol certificate) and confidentiality agreements, it was time to begin. Everything was already  in place – judges and associates selected, wines sorted into classes and then randomised, tables, glassware, buckets, and running sequences arranged for the four panels. All the stewards had to do was set up glasses, pour wines, clean up and possibly try a few wines afterwards. It’s good for fitness, but a lot of time on your feet.

We’re volunteers – generally the judges are away from their day jobs; and people are doing it for love. Apart from the time away from family and work, there is wear and tear on the intellect, and taste-buds – plus dental care is very precious. For many judges it’s an excellent opportunity for professional development – to taste the wines of their competitors and peers, learn about their own tasting strengths and weaknesses, see trends in winemaking, all with some brief time for networking.

I had the fortunate opportunity to guest on a couple of judging sessions; 20-odd recent chardonnays, and 33 young rosés. My scores (and those of other associates) were not counted; but it was an exercise in concentration, description, time-management and stamina. And of course, we don’t know the identity of the wines as they merely appear in numbered glasses.

Each wine receives a score, and a few comments to justify the basis for the score. All these are now entered on a tablet, with judges scores and comments available to the Panel Chair(person). This role is responsible for negotiating scoring consensus, calling some wines back for retastes, finessing and combining comments to be somewhat less offensive to the exhibitors (apart from faults, descriptors such as  “dilute, industrial, green fruit, prematurely developed” occurred) as did other terms I would struggle to define or identify (“hang-time, stale oak”). No exhibitor really wants to find out why others think their wine is ugly or undeserving.

Judges are encouraged to taste the line-up of wines starting at different places or “backwards” (to reduce “halo” effects). A rule of thumb was for a gold medal could be “I’d like six of those in my cellar”; a silver “ a few bottles would be nice”; a bronze “yes I’ll have another glass”; for those that don’t rate a medal “have you got something else?”.

Callbacks occur for several reasons – where judges’ scores differ significantly or are on the border of silver/gold; people may be passionate on the merits –or flaws of particular wines. Wines are randomised, re-tasted to identity “top gold”, and potentially some wines are downgraded to silver medals. In the “split classes” (if many wines in a class, judging will be distributed across panels), the golds or top golds from each panel are reassembled for judging. Then we’re often into the realm of philosophy where some attributes are noticed, and valued more highly by some judges than others – smashability, however is not a phrase utilised.

Trophies may be judged across several classes; best red or white may come from single varieties and blends; best wine of the show may for example eventually pit a Chardonnay against a Shiraz. A gold medal or trophy usually means a wine has been assessed multiple times.

Rosé? I don’t buy this style, and seldom drink them, so why would I volunteer to judge a line-up? It seems almost every producer makes one, the market has boomed, but making a decent rosé is not straightforward. They should be made deliberately, not as an afterthought; colour matters (not trying to make a light dry red); some sweetness is OK if matched with crunchy acidity. It proved surprisingly simple to sort better wines from regrettable wines. I learned plenty about time management, writing adequate descriptions, sorting the wines into rough medal – or not – categories then refining and ranking.

I am not a wine-maker, so I was pleased and relieved that my scores were (generally) not wildly different from the judges, albeit my descriptions proved somewhat different. The BLIC approach (balance, length, intensity and complexity) is more than just a mechanical checklist for the judges, who can appreciate and articulate the attributes of wines.

I often see disparaging comments regarding (factual) score disparity between the same wine in different shows. There is variability in temperature, lighting, glassware, aeration time, transport and panel composition.  And judges sensitivities vary, and their knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment will differ across classes.  It’s also an expensive exercise to enter wines into competitions, and wines can change even over the course of a few months. With these factors – and more, such as wine being bottled in batches- in play, there is more consistency than I realistically have expected. It’s still possible for wines with subtlety to be neglected when brash wines with one strong feature are exhibited.

Judges are selected with care, and their performances are scrutinised, and there are tools and resources to assess their competencies; statistically, as well as their mentoring and “soft skills”.

I experienced excellent guidance from the Panel Chair, with helpful introductions to what we should expect and value in each class, support for my enthusiasms for several wines, and general inclusion in discussions. These are merely some of the skills; a good panel of judges will disagree on some style matters and be able to articulate support or disappointment with individual wines; a good Panel Chair will facilitate the discussion and know when to call in the Chief Judge to assist, and verify conclusions.

I’ll be back for more stewarding (and hopefully some judging too), as I seem overtly partial to knowledge acquisition.

Old Baileys fortifieds

From a recent auction purchase, the two wines described are believed to have been bottled at least 35 years ago. The style can lose freshness, even under screwcap. I have many vivid memories of visiting Baileys outside Glenrowan, Victoria – even as a child – and their heroic and long-living ferrous red wines and luscious fortifieds. It was a rare day when visits did not coincide with bitter weather (and a welcome open fire) or alternatively a heatwave, when it was tempting to remain inside. HJT are the initials of legendary winemaker Harry Tinson and these wines represent their best selections of the styles. Harry led Baileys from 1973 to 1986, before escaping to start his own label at nearby Lake Mokoan,  (but died in 1995).

My impression is that under assorted corporate ownership, Baileys was starved of investment (except for label redesigns), and its existence, location, wine styles, and its loyal and vocal customer base was regarded as a nuisance, and largely ignored. It’s now under the Casella umbrella, and I remain optimistic.

The wines of Baileys are now made by Paul Dahlenburg (also at the excellent Eldorado Road) and have the same intensity with some more winemaking finesse – something I only picked up with 2009 vintage and onwards; the fortifieds are again outstanding.

nv hjts

NV Baileys Winemakers selection HJT Liqueur muscat
The wine is a dark khaki/coffee grounds/motor oil colour; the aromas are stacked with all the mocha/toffee/orange rind and spiced raisin that are desired; the palate is very, very concentrated. rich, ultra sweet but with the bracing freshness, dried fruits and a touch of camphor to brighten the excesses and “please sir can I have some more?”

Drink now, but 92 points for this piece of history

NV Bundarra (Baileys) Winemakers selection HJT Liqueur (tokay) Topaque
Time has been less kind to this bottle, but no-one had issues drinking, and requesting top-ups. It’s a similar colour to it sibling, albeit not quite as deep. The varietal malt/anchovy/fishoil/butterscotch characters are present with saline, malt and some staleness. The palate is very rich and luscious. Malt extract, roast hazelnuts and dark chocolates build a delicious complex picture, but this wine requires some judicious freshening (use another bottle of topaque and experiment!)

Drink now, 86 points (well worth the purchase price to revisit tasting and travel memories)

Stoney Goose Ridge – another wine release – the Maximus

There’s far too much overhyped flim-flam about natural wines; and their laid-back minimalist intervention philosophy. Of course, Stoney Goose Ridge was an early adopter with the phenomenal Hipsters Reward.

Briefly, the backstory was that I, Hannibal Lector, intervened to rescue an accidental hands-off wine, adding polish through nomenclature, packaging and allied branding prestidigitational transformational manoeuvres.  Hipsters Reward caused a monumental monster feeding frenzy in the marketplace, but with limited supply we had to put the brakes on to ensure equitable distribution amongst our long-term supporters in emergent market-domiciles. We profited immensely from this launch, provoking jealousy and consternation amongst our perennially feeble competitors, while we gained goodwill and now make an annual release of this brand byline behemoth. Legions of copycat efforts came a cropper.

But truly it’s now time perhaps overdue to reflect on the welcome effluxion of temporality and the relentless march of progress. In the world of wine, we’ve only utilised bottles in the last few hundred years, (cans too). It’s only been for a brief interval that electricity has been harnessed for industrial and domestic quality of life advancement purposes. With grapes we have better clones, rootstocks, have planted in more appropriate sites, with canopy enhancements, advanced chemicals, mechanised spraying, pruning and harvesting.  Together with improvements in winemaking processes generally, these have cumulatively culminated in compellingly improved vinous beverage refreshments. Yeasts have been refined in their efficiency productivity quotients; packaging and the sales journey have benefited from progress in science, finance, advertising and management.

And now for something completely different. A wine that celebrates and rewards innovative progressivity. Too much water has gone under the bridge to turn back the clock, jump the hurdles and nip it in the bud. It’s par for the course.

This wine represents the epitome, the quintessential embodied essence of technology – the Maximus – absolutely Vegan inimical. With an RRP of merely $15, it displays the rewards of progress at its most unleashed. No innovations ignored. Ahead of the narrative curve; cutting, leading and bleeding edge.

This wine was assembled from different parcels, all machine pruned and harvested (no organic or biodynamic grapes used) complete with MOG, using stainless steel tanks, roto-fermenters, air-bag presses and strict temperature control, inert gas cover, DAP, micro-ox, mixed cultured yeasts, enzymes, pumping over, added tannins, additions of citric and tartaric acid, varied fining agents, membrane and cross-flow filtration before bottling. Some parts pasteurized, and even some reverse osmosis. Plus sulphur. Under screwcap, so no need to fear cork artefacts. Even the bottle is light-mass thanks to production expertise. The four-piece label reflects ultra hi-tech engineering prowess. The entire kitbag of bells and whistles.

My role was critically essential. The wine crew had assembled a few sample blends, with each component separately available. It took me only 15 minutes to refine the proposed blend to a better-quality outcome result; and simultaneously reduce the volume of wine that needed to find another home; another win-win-wine for my growing throng of excited brand loyalists.  The platoon could only applaud and celebrate my achievement, and my direct report subordinates watched in rapture.

The wine team has explicit extensive technical qualifications, but needs my proven analytic sensory organoleptic flair to add the X, Y and Z factor that excites sommeliers, wine show judges, and all drinkers both novice and seasoned. And my vision and hands-on nano-management exertions to translate extraordinary wines into extraordinary sale profitability metrics.

Mentoring is just one of my numerous acknowledged talents. It is a truth universally acknowledged that there are two kinds of people; those that know Hector Lannible, and those that aspire to meet and consume his insights, wisdom and generosity.

Stoney Goose Ridge is thus absolutely fervently excited to launch Miraculous Maximus Technoplex®. The name says it all, reflecting its origins and lineage.  It’s already won awards for offset carbon footprint measurement refinement, and innovative marketing prizes are guaranteed. Its another wine in the expansive Stoney Goose Ridge masstige premiumisation portfolio.

At this point of temporality, the Maximus is exclusively available within Australia, as certain components are unbelievably prohibited in selected overseas markets, a consequence of brittle and cowardly obsequience in trade negotiations. It’s truly a loss to potential consumers, distributors and outlets. People should be outraged and mobilise to demand alterations to trade arrangements and associated arbitrarily restrictive punitive legislation. After all, the end-consumer deserves benefit from widespread availability of this and similar exemplars from Stoney Goose Ridge.

Due to selectively critical blockchain negligence, certain components had incomplete documentation meaning their additive compositions could not be fully audit certified for export. This situation will be rectified, enabling the inevitable future editions of this wine to grace overseas shelves, tables, cellars and most importantly partaken with elan by our growing hordes of eager core vertical customers.

In the meantime, Australian consumers are the winners with another gratifying astonishment from the restlessly creative Stoney Goose Ridge under its inspiring dynamic CEO Hector Lannible.

Miraculous Maximus Technoplex®; RRP $15.

More recent splashes

2014-5 doisyblanck heggies1983 vps

All served blind – it may seem premature to serve young Barsacs, but these proved wholly delicious, with enormous capacity to live and improve for many years. Cellaring estimates are conservative, but no-one is immortal.

2014 Ch Doisy-daene 13.5%
Barsac, 100% semillon 144g/l rs; The website is very detailed, and I tasted this wine a few months ago with similar notes.  Enormously aromatic; tropical fruits, pineapple rind, touch of vanilla essence, green nettle, botrytis. Exciting, fine creaminess, honeyed with lovely racy acidity, some cashew oak,  spotless.

Drink to 2030, 93 points

2015 Ch Doisy-daene 13.5%
Barsac, 100% Semillon, 136 g/l rs. A slightly greener fruit profile than the wine above, ripe pear and more stonefruit white peach (and botrytis); this wine already seems more rewarding, with impressive fine honeyed texture, greater- but still balanced-ginger-spice oak, and richer depth and mouthfeel, with supporting acidity.

Drink to 2035, 94 points (and more to come)

2005 Paul Blanck Furstentum vendanges tardives Gewurtztraminer 12.5%
Alsace, screwcap! Half-bottle, purchased at the winery, from a special site. Light gold in colour, it displays musk, roses and oiliness. The palate is moderately sweet, but its persistent, varietal with a winningly appealing citrus twang

Drink to 2025, 92 points

2007 Heggies “242” botrytis riesling 8.1%
A half-bottle located after my records showed I had none left (previously reviewed on this site). Amber/light copper coloured. The 242 refers to the amount of retained sugar, which comfortably sits at the BA level, and from a site in the Eden Valley, South Australia – where mostly dry Rieslings are produced, but often a small amount of botrytised Riesling. It’s packed with orange essence and marmalade, very decadent; on the viscous palate there are apricot and stonefruits. It’s still fresh, ultra-sweet -but still balanced-  some hardness is emerging, so drink sooner, not later.

Drink to 2022, 92 points

1983 Stanton and Killeen Vintage Port 19%
Rutherglen, and a hot dry year. A solid bricky colour, but browning only on the rim. Ripe and sweet with some raisined fruit, iron and liquorice, sweet, chalky, lively but a little warm. But it’s 35 years old, and 100% shiraz. On the evidence of this bottle, no further improvement is likely, but it’s still a satisfying and rewarding wine

Drink now, 88 points

1983 Dow’s Vintage Port 20%
Portugal of course. Paler colour than the wine above, showing a more interesting fruit expression of blue and red fruits, and milk chocolate covered almonds. The palate is fine and detailed – and medium-bodied, but also suggests the acidity will hold while the fruit recedes. At this stage, the tannin is balanced, but every bottle will be different.

Drink to 2025, 92 points

Recent splashes

It seems I have been busy; so just a few quick impressions (of wines tasted blind) before more regular and detailed notes resume…

1988 hardys vp1965 campbells vp

1978 Hardy’s 125th anniversary Vintage Port
McLaren Vale. Raspberry jam and cherry liqueur; very sweet in style with liquorice and plum; terrific length; exceptional spirit integration – whacky bottle I’d never seen either.

Drink to 2030, 94 points

1965 Campbells Vintage Port
Rutherglen. Label clues are Cabernet and Shiraz “will improve for years to come”. Its not often I see a wine older than 50 years. It’s a very viscous, dense wine with its main impressions not fruit; mochas, coffee cream, toffee. This made its style not straightforward to discern- not the florals or richness of muscat or topaque (or acidity), not the rancio of a tawny style. Yet it didn’t look like a VP. IT seemed Australian with its relative sweetness, and brandy spirit. However it remained a lovely drink of indeterminate origin until revealed. Straightforward flavours, but its solidity and age a tribute to the style

Drink now, 91 points

1985 Gould Campbell Vintage port 20%
Despite reviewing this wine very favourably in February 2017, I didn’t identify it when it was served by a member of one of the tasting groups I frequent. Pale ruby colour and the mixed spices plus red and blue fruits indicated Portuguese varieties. Fig, almond, and the voluminous aromatics, albeit with a faint touch of rubber. Not quite as stellar as my last bottle, but still excellent

Drink now to 2027, 93 points

2005 Seppeltsfield Shiraz/touriga Vintage Port (screwcap)
Barossa (74% Shiraz, 23% Touriga, 2% Tinta barocca, 1% Tinta Cao) Abundant spices and almond character, but not the complexity of Portugal (and a bit sweeter too). Drinking well, but straightforward. My notes indicate this wine was purchased as a cleanskin for $8, and I have a few bottles in the cellar for more leisurely contemplation and reflections.

Drink to 2023, 90 points

2016 Crawford river “nektar” Riesling 12% (screwcap)
Henty, Victoria. 152 g/l rs. Very pale light lemon with green flashes, Nettles, sherbet, very sweet and viscous, mixed tropical fruits and lemon peel. Compelling length, a wonderfully realised botrytised wine where pure varietal character is not overwhelmed. Crawford River crafts outstanding dry Rieslings; this wine is still available on their website for a fair price considering its quality,

Drink to 2032, 94 points (and more when it relaxes in a few years)

Two affordable Australian muscats from Rutherglen

These bottles have been lurking, and it’s proper to assess them before they are entirely empty – in itself a recommendation. It’s entirely possible to accompany this rich wine style with foods – hard cheeses suffice – but in cool months an open fire, witty company and a sparkling comedy or “film noir” would be my preference.

These wines are made from Muscat a petit grains Rouge grapes (aka Brown Muscat) picked when ripe, fermented, fortified with neutral spirit and matured in large oak. With time, the wine becomes more concentrated, and complex. The art is again in blending judicious quantities of younger material to keep the wines fresh. Companies can make several different muscats (Morris releases 4 or 5) and the oldest can command prices of over $1000 per bottle. Considering the average age and holding time, this kind of price is not farfetched, but substantial pleasure can still be derived from more basic offerings.

Within Australia, northeast Victoria – particularly around Rutherglen –  is the epicentre of this style, with Glenrowan a significant outlier. This style of Muscat is also made in other areas such as the Barossa Valley, and Swan Valley but I am much less familiar with their wines.

Once opened, the bottles can be kept for several weeks, but its uncommon for open bottles to survive long at my home, unless placed in a cupboard and temporarily forgotten.

two muscats (2)

NV Morris Classic Liqueur Muscat 17.5%
Freely available for $25 – or under.  Bright mahogany in colour, it flaunts its raisin, roses, fruitcake and sweet spices; it’s lush, with some mocha joining the dried fruit flavours; it has a lingering finish that is bright, sweet yet not cloying, insistent on further sampling. Artfully made, with greater complexity than its price would indicate.

Drink now, 92 points

NV Seppeltsfield Grand Muscat DP63 17%
Minimum average ten years, and available for around $30. Similar colour, perhaps with a touch of green olive, and slightly deeper. Mocha, fig, toffee. Greater mouthfeel and viscosity, greater length, greater volume of decadent mocha and cleansing acidity. Another great value buy.

Drink now, 93 points

 

These are both exciting drinks that provide fabulous enjoyment with superb value. A worthwhile exercise is to try blending (bottled) muscats together in varying proportions. One useful tip is that a smidgen of little older material makes much more difference than expected.