Two Australian off-dry Rieslings

2017 Pikes “Olga Emmie” Riesling 10.5%
From the Clare Valley, South Australia, from a classic year.  Pikes make a well-priced and readily available “traditionale” Riesling, and their reserve is the “Merle” (a terrific wine that I have purchased to cellar).

2017 pikes oe riesling

The “Olga Emmie” is Pike’s off-dry Riesling, described as “slightly sweet” on the back label, with perhaps 20 g/l of residual sugar. It is available for around $20, and well worth seeking out.

“Olga Emmie” proved an interesting wine, particularly since I had the luxury of consuming it over several days. Each time, my assessment, and score improved- so perhaps this is a wine whose virtues are not instantly obvious. It’s youthful and pale in colour; its aromatics are present but not overt and include lime marmalade, passionfruit and pebbles.

There is some residual sugar, and my first impression was that an extra tweak of acidity would have pleased me; but the wine is absolutely delicious with lime, and then lemon, and some fresh honeydew melon. The acidity is keenly pitched, and fills out a wholesome drinking experience.

I am baffled that there are so few examples of serious off-dry Rieslings in Australia; food-friendly, approachable and delicious – Grosset’s Alea, and the  Pewsey Vale Prima come to mind; further mental effort retrieves Pressing Matters R9, a Rieslingfreak offering, then the memory bank fades.

It’s not necessarily easy for a customer to work between the range of “dry” and “dessert”; and the complex interplay of sweetness and acidity on perceptions is another issue; not today’s topic! Labelling wines as off-dry, semi-sweet, medium dry or medium sweet doesn’t seem to have helped.

While this Pike’s wine will certainly improve for a few years (particularly based on the moving target of my views), it will already be a terrific accompaniment to a range of foods much broader than generic “Asian”, with fish and white meats well into play.

Conservatively, drink to 2022 and 90 points

Disclosure- this was a sample bottle.

 

2009 Lethbridge Dr Nadeson Riesling 11.5%
Although Lethbridge is based in Geelong Victoria, this particular wine is from Portland, SW Victoria, from the Barratt vineyard. There have been several releases from this vineyard, but not for the past few years.

2009 lethbridge riesling

It’s a pale gold colour, and displays varietal talc, wax, mango, cantaloupe and some definite but unobjectionable petroleum. The palate shows green apple characters, some textural grip and a twist of lemony acidity. There is perhaps 10 g/l of residual sugar which adds to the package, providing intrigue to the palate . Nine years old, but the taste is still defiantly fresh.

Perhaps not a wine for technocrats (with its degree of textural grip); certainly idiosyncratic in its winemaking approach, and I firmly favour drinking this wine soon, while its vibrancy critically supports  its drinkability. But the wines very slow evolution means it will last much longer.

Drink to 2020, and 88 points.

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1985 Taylor’s Vintage Port 20.5%, again

I reviewed a bottle of this wine in April 2016, so it proved an interesting exercise to read my old comments, score and drinking window after writing this newer note. Thankfully, there were similar descriptions and conclusions.

1985 taylors vintage port

From a widely declared (but not regarded as a wonderful) year, this Portuguese Vintage Port is in a attractive drinking zone.  The cork broke a little when I opened the wine, but was in excellent condition for its 30-odd years. Decanting was needed to remove sediment, and away we went!

The Taylor’s website is user-friendly and their assessment of the vintage and this wine is here, along with plenty of other useful information.

A ruby colour, with some age-appropriate bricking on the rim, the wine displayed a mix of floral red and black fruits (mulberry, fig and plum) plus other characteristics including oatmeal and hazelnut. The spirit was generous and well integrated.

The palate was mellow and savoury, with mixed mocha and chocolate cream characters,  with minerally flint and iron notes, then the generous baking spices followed. Tannins are fine, but certainly present.

All up, this is a delicious wine, drinking irresistibly. I purchased a few bottles of this wine at auction in October 2015, and have been delighted with the results, with one bottle left.

Drink to 2030, and 95 points.

 

PS – Jancis Robinson has recently been running a competition about how people started on their wine journey- my published entry is here.

 

More recent random “theme” drinks

2008 Schloss Lieser Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett 8%
Cork Ok, and another 2008 Mosel riesling ready for action.
Light gold colour, abundant ripe red apple, white flowers and lemon aromatics; the palate is light-bodied but full-flavoured, with  red berries, apple, honey and willing acidity. Purchase notes indicate 63 g/l residual sugar. Irresistible, but drink up while it’s still bursting with energy.

Drink to 2023, and 91 points; I’m quietly purring that I have some of their higher-end wines from that year too….

2010 Petaluma Fortified shiraz 20%
half bottle, cork, and probably a cellar-door wine as the “Petaluma” brand is buried in the back label.

This is a very smart wine from the Adelaide Hills (South Australia); abundant ripe black cherry melded with sweet brandy spirit. Irresistible.  And then the subtleties emerge; this is pristine-  blueberry, mulberry, morello cherry. Whispery, very fine silky tannins. A modern, seductive, classy fortified with supreme balance that will mature gracefully over many more years. Juicy, fleshy and the “drunken cherry” flavours are wondrous.

Drink to 2030, and 93 points.

2007 Dirler Gewurtztraminer Saering vendanges tardives 14%

Alsace, Grand cru, and 54 g/l residual sugar. The VT description really just means late harvest. It seems I wrote about this wine about two years ago, and my notes and score are moderately consistent (but this time the camera refused to take even a passable photo).

The cork has lasted well and the wine is a bright deep gold colour,  Gewurztraminer is an aromatic variety, and there are attractive mixed scents including honey, rose-petal, orange blossom, marmalade and cooking spices (mainly cinnamon).

The palate is true and lush, with more stewed apricot, orange marmalade, and grapey ripe sultana displayed. It is rich, ripe and becoming a little hard, with its sweetness being slowly overtaken. But I doubt that many will have deliberately kept this wine for so long, and it improved for one day after opening before its charms receded. It was probably more exuberant a few years ago.

Drink up, but 90 points still.

 

 

 

 

Assorted recent drinks

1979 DF vp2008 dow's lbvp 1970 warre's vp

David Franz AD 1979 Vintage Port 17.4%
Its terrific to see a 37-year-old fortified wine from South Australia. Made by Peter Lehmann, and tidied up and recorked by son David Franz; Barossa Shiraz with some Langhorne Creek Cab Sav.

The colour is a dark brick, and there is plenty of richness and softness, but also vitality. Mocha, liquorice, cardamon, orange rind, with a dash of camphor lift. Clean brandy spirit, plus figgy, dark caramel flavours, dried fruits and not nuttiness. The wine is not overblown, its gentle and reflective; a lovely piece of history that drinks compellingly.

Some people may prefer less bottle development, but this is a tribute to Barossa fruit longevity, its maker, sourcing and survival. And it may still be available in a few places for around $50. All up, a very welcome experience

Drink to 2020, 88 points

2008 Dow ‘s LBV (late-bottled vintage port) 20%
I don’t taste many of this style; more mellow than a vintage port, and substantially cheaper, these are bottled between 4 and 6 years after harvest, They are a “nearly” vintage port, with the decision on the style happening early. There are filtered and unfiltered versions, some sealed with a stopper, and debate about whether the wines can improve in bottle. An excellent discussion is on Roy Hersh’s (mostly paid) site.

Dense and cloudy,  light ruby/mahogany colour. Ripe dark cherry and slightly raw oak. Silky ripe mouthfeel, plum and light red liquorice flavours,  clean bright spirit. Brisk, and tastes youthful. This is a wine that won’t change much and there is no advantage with further cellaring.

Drink now, 89 points

1970 Warre’s Vintage Port
Decanted, due to a vast amount of sediment. We learned that this bottle had less than stellar cellaring conditions. Pale ruby in colour, the notes of almond meal, putty, mocha and rose-petal were sufficient to sway me to its Portuguese origins. Spirit looked plain, and a bit awkward, but the other characteristics offset this. The wine was quite sweet,  with dark jam and fig elements. Rich, but with energy and just a superfine sustained palate. A terrific year for VP’s though; the wine was consumed with gusto and hugely appreciated. A generous piece of history.

Drink to 2030, 93 points, and potentially other bottles will be better..

The China syndrome – exporting wine to Asia; insider advice

It’s no secret that many Australian wine producers and intermediaries are aiming to export wine into China.

Why? Firstly, it’s massive; China, with over 1.4 billion people dwarfs Australia in its population, and its growing prosperity. It has a vibrant marketplace, eager to sample the wines of the west. Its burgeoning middle-class millennials aspire to consume what used to be luxury goods but which are now affordable. The Australian free trade agreement made with China in 2014 has certainly stimulated developments.

While China also has vast wine grape plantings, so far, its wine quality results have been underwhelming, despite investment in technology and human capital in the form of flying winemakers’ eager to transfer their expertise to the locals – despite language barriers. And China has also been busy purchasing vineyards and wineries overseas- many in Bordeaux- and within Australia.

Hector Lannible, the CEO of Stoney Goose Ridge has expertly been dealing with China (and many other countries) for years; he expands on opportunities and pitfalls; here are some highlights from his keynote TED talk, made after his recent triumphs at Vinexpo 2018 in Hong Kong.

In the beginning
“I lead a wine business, but there are substantial crossover translatable elements for any business; really, it’s all very simple. Before my stellar MBA time, archaic marketing texts described the 4 P’s – product, price, promotion and place (distribution). Slightly more evolved models included positioning. But these over-simplified theories have been superseded by much more sophisticated analytic frameworks.

Today, I describe an innovative set of 4 P’s vital to success- in China, and universally. The prime factor is relationships- I call the first aspect people. You need to step up to the plate to kick goals.

All sides negotiating need to be willing to jump hurdles to lay their cards on the table. All sides need skin in the game to carry the torch; to pin down the communication fog – the essential need for mutual respect and trust. Long-term relationships require committed, ultra-trustworthy people. So, Stoney Goose Ridge successfully concluded a nimble 700-page heads of agreement in anticipation of the memorandum of understanding. And that’s just the beginning; the final contract establishes a joint venture- the China Investment Authority (CIA).

There are no artificial “Chinese walls” or “bamboo curtains” here, we make up a team of paperless tigers –  in every negotiation in this industry it’s not just about wine, and wine, it’s about win-win.

Confronting challenges
The second key is confronting problems. Not the boring logistical issues around transport, import and export regulations, customs, trademarks. Not the meaningless gibber about language nuances and cultural differences. Not even the task of supplying eye-watering volumes of wine product. Nor the potential for political interference or the so-called triads. All these are simply resolved by the universal language – not Esperanto, not Klingon. Money.

There was no spin doctor needed to confront the elephants in the room before they reached plague proportions. Two problems that exist are hacking, and wine counterfeiting. These are more widespread than our partners initially accepted, but they bowed to our resolve. Our word is our bond and we have come in from the cold and taken 39 steps to eliminate and control threats. On the regrettable angle of substitution, our high-tech centre of excellence has incorporated cutting-edge bespoke design enhancements into packaging, and indeed into the wines themselves. Due to patent and bilateral security issues, I am unable to reveal details, but our network of agents will take decisive action to terminate breaches with a thousand cuts..

And so it goes; at the coalface, we think outside the Pandora’s box of the four winds.

Following through
The third factor is processes.

Stoney Goose Ridge leads the vanguard of support arrangements; our long-term dealings with wholesalers, distributors, retailers; our training in sales, accounting, finance, legal, IT, packaging, data-mining and brand superiority. We are infamous for our advertising, promotion and array of point-of-sale and back-office efficiencies. Plus our blockchain and cryptocurrency adventures.  Certainly, we are supremely confident that our Chinese partners are onboard and entirely speak our language. Yin and yang in feng shui harmony.

It’s a lay-down misere that the dominoes will fall, and a penalty shoot-out is not required to snooker our competitors.

We have embedded multiple cross-cultural synergies. But we won’t stop there – we have over fifty existing product lines covering varietal wines and blends at all price points, positioned to satisfy numerous lifestyle segments. Our data mining minions excel at their spreadsheet craft; the only challenge is to translate these winning brands into the uniquely inscrutable Chinese language. But I know that barcodes are universal, and our graphic design talents are truly phenomenal.

Making waves
The final aspect is personality. Although I was born a type-A workaholic rat, I was close to being a snake. Stoney Goose Ridge, under my virtuoso entrepreneurial inspirational guidance, has in the past year unleashed many market-leading new wines – Brosé, Emoh Ruo, Chamsecco®, Hipsters’ Reward, Lawyer’s Picnic, plus beers such as One Tasty Blonde, Bullant Lager, and spirits such as The Old Wood Duck (vodka) and Two Fingers (gin).  These are deservedly barnstorming chart-toppers at the box office. We bring this extraordinary creative branding acumen and flair to the CIA; and our first great leap forward into the Chinese market is known internally as project “China White”.

I remember Prince Philips’ notorious comment “if it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, they will eat it”. It reminds me of Upton Sinclair’s words about the Chicago slaughteryards “they use everything about the hog except the squeal”. I strongly disapprove of this malicious stereotyping.

Certainly, with wine, Chinese tastes, lifestyle demographics and descriptions are quite different to Western mores. The familiar Davis flavour wheel needs transubstantiation to include Chinese fruits, flowers, flavours and textures.  Our wine writers, critics and wine makers literally need galvanisation. Plus, the cuisines of China are diverse and demanding. Wine and food matching combinations require synergistic revolutionary insights. Fortunately, Stoney Goose Ridge has long employed consumer panels, and focus groups; we’re not entirely captive to our beancounters when we need to make a buck. And under my frenetic acumen, our team of wine fabricators will fully meet the needs of the market, using all the agile techniques and materials at their disposal.

We’re not fighting Voldemort; we know where to obtain sufficient silver bullets to defeat the walking dead before the full moon appears. With ice in our veins, our competitors will truly feel the heat. When you chase the dragon, you don’t want your dreams to go up in smoke. So we ensure our wines have the x factor, plus the Y and z factors.

We acknowledge the presence of many other wine brands already present in China- such as Penfolds (transliterated as Ben Fu), and the extraordinary cachet of Chateau Lafite. But we’ll leapfrog these tall poppies within years. Our competitors can try to conduct a kamikaze blitzkrieg, but Stony Goose Ridge will establish a dynasty, leaping forward with our initial 5-year plan.

And the wine industry is not interested in a dry argument. We provide the products, either as bulk or fully packaged wines; our Chinese partners deal with downstream aspects where their interlocking familial obligations ensure widespread uptake. Our partners will utilise whatever social media may exist for the Chinese markets, whether its Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or others I cannot even pronounce.

Living the dream
Just these four keys- people, problems, processes, and personality will unlock the passport to the frontier. Like Tencent, and the successful B-to-B enterprise Alibaba, I say “open Sesame”!

I often say to my flock of subordinate acolytes “when you grasp the nettle, it’s full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes”.

Finally, I can say that while Stoney Goose Ridge will be an overwhelming success in this burgeoning market, we don’t keep all our eggs in one basket to bring home the bacon.

So,  I issue a challenge to other wine companies. Stoney Goose Ridge will prevail in China, but that country’s appetite is so large there is still scope for others to operate on the fringes and niche markets that Stoney Goose Ridge has assessed as unviable. Go for it, and try to prove us wrong. There is a first time for everything!  I remain in awe of the volume, frequency, intensity and power of the bodily emanations of some of my jealous aspiring peers.

In conclusion, I reiterate some traditional Chinese wisdoms: live long and prosper, may the force be with you grasshopper, may you live in interesting times, and may you come to the attention of your superiors. Thank you.”

Mornington Peninsula musings

Thanks to the generosity of Sommeliers Australia and the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association (MPVA- and its very detailed website), I attended a day trip to improve my understanding of the wines, vintages, geography and winemakers of the region. Kudos to the winemakers for making time and wines available, and their preparedness to field questions from our group.

morn day trip 1

morn day trip 2

The group tasted (at speed) a range of current, near-future, and museum stock wines. The natural acidity usually provided plenty of energy and ageing potential. As expected, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir provided most wines tasted.

My takeaways were

  • A cool, maritime climate with large water bodies (Bass Strait, Westernport bay, Port Phillip Bay) nearby, plantings from near sea-level to 300 meters, and varying soli types, there is ample scope for grape-growing variations, even before winemaking philosophies and techniques come into play.
  • Vines (now) have enough age to provide richness and flavour depth
  • There are thoughtful winemakers employing a range of techniques and trying to maximise the distinctiveness of their sites
  • With Chardonnays, divergence between full malo and no malo approaches, but both were successfully employed
  • Many comments about wild yeast, clones and there is a lot of experimentation
  • 2015 was generally regarded as an excellent year, some support for 2016 too, 2017 very good, 2018 a large crop but excellent quality (at this early stage)

Its probably cruel to single out highlights, but standouts for me

  • 2012 Yabby Lake single vineyard block 1 Chardonnay; bright, tangerine, lemon curd, stonefruit, with many years ahead
  • 2017 Stonier Chardonnay; a wine made in amazing quantities, but layers of chalk, honey, creaminess and energy, a tribute to  winemaking techniques and blending of batches at a bargain price
  • 2017 Quealy (musk vineyard) Pinot Gris; Pear, texture, lemon drop, plenty going on
  • 2010 Kooyong Farrago vineyard Chardonnay; in its prime, a lovely, juicy, supple, grapefruit style, a delight that was hard to spit out
  • 2016 Port Phillip estate Morillon Pinot Noir; rhubarb and energy in abundance
  • 2016 Kooyong Ferrous vineyard Pinot Noir; earth and plum, supple and seductive
  • 2016 Moorooduc Robinson Pinot Noir; (project wine) fleshy, foresty, plummy, dark fruits
  • 2016 Paringa Pinot Noir (project wine); sweet fruit, fresh and utterly delicious
  • 2010 Eldridge Estate Pinot Noir; soft but opulent
  • 2015 Paringa estate “the paringa”; amazing mouthfeel, with a balance of chew and finesse
  • 2015 Ocean 8 “aylward” Pinot Noir; fragrance and power, some purple fruits in the mix. Low cropped but unforced
  • 2016 Moorooduc Robinson vineyard Pinot Noir; raspberry, dark cherry and sensual
  • 2016 10 minutes by Tractor McCutcheon vineyard Pinot Noir; sweet fruits, fleshy, smashable but with serious intent.

Apologies for the lack of photos and their quality, I had some technology challenges!

The wines, scenery and proximity to Melbourne make the Mornington Peninsula a “really-should do”.