Snippets, again

Maybe not thematic, but these fragments deserve a note; on the cork front, an unusual  run in the past six months yielded only 2 wines affected by taint or obvious oxidation–  a “meagre” 3.7%. Not many industries would accept this level of wastage. The degree of TCA in both wines was amazing- textbook examples.

  • 1993 Craiglee Chardonnay – replaced
  • 1996 Baileys Shiraz – no response from winery

And quick notes follow about wines that impressed

2015 Tolpuddle Chardonnay 12.5%
“Full malo” is a phrase that normally makes me run away, but served masked (of course) this Coal River valley (Tasmania) wine astonished. It’s a modern melon and smoke style- such as Oakridge or Seville Estate- cashewy oak, mineral-drenched fruit and the Tasmanian acidity powers through this utterly delicious wine.
From the Shaw and Smith stable, it’s around $60 a bottle retail – I ordered 3 bottles on the spot. Wonderful, and will hold for quite a while.

2015 Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5%
This is the 60th release of this label; a few years ago, I tasted the 1960, 1965, 1966 and 1972; there is no doubting the longevity of the style; its affordability makes it deservedly popular among wine-drinkers (not just unicorn-collectors). This release is ripe, beautifully manicured and balanced; blackcurrant and other dark fruits, chalks; it flows gently, deliciously and juicily along. Lovely, with a huge future. Coonawarra, and unforced.

2012 Giant Steps Applejack Pinot Noir 13.5%
This is a wine that nearly won the notorious Jimmy Watson trophy, but there was insufficient volume. At  5 years old, this  Yarra Valley wine has time on its side. Its amazingly fragrant, with small, succulent, sweet red berry scents, plus seasoned oak. The palate shows much more ripe strawberry, and again the oak is present, somehow making a savoury impact. But where this wine stands out is for its prodigious, long-lasting, ultra-refined finish. Another 5 years at least, and 95 points

2002 Seppelt St Peters Shiraz 14%
Wonderful wine. Cork was not the greatest visual composition, but no travel.
2002 was a cool year in Victoria, and this wine is special. My records indicate I paid $35; some key notes; the colour is deep black/red, and there is no browning even at the rim; the wine is beautifully poised with vibrant, intense fruit, oak very much a background factor. Its ripeness is spot-on; blackberry, mixed spices and mocha, some very faint herbal tannin bitterness, and just powers along. Easy, hedonistic drinking, and will remain so for another 15 years – or more. Instant gold medal score, and another example of Grampians Shiraz seduction.

1995 Guigal Hermitage
From a great year in the Northern Rhone; power+, ripe +, slinky old-vine mouthfeel. Dry herb, chalk, iron filings and spices, powdery tannins, touch of bitterness. At plateau and another 10 years will not tire it. Outstanding, 94 points


And a few rarities from a very special dinner

2002 Bollinger RD disgorged 24/6/2014
Served at a “just right” temperature in appropriate glassware (flutes are NOT proper stemware for Champagne, any kind of tulip-shaped glass is better). It’s a light straw colour; Immediate sense of class. There are scents of pastries, fruit tingles, strawberries dusted gently with icing sugar (the Pinot dominance roughly 60/40 is felt); a touch of oak/chalk/cream, a touch of almond. Then the palate lights up with exuberance, tiny bead, and the flavours just linger on, the wine seems bone dry (4 g/l is very dry even for a prestige champagne). This is just a wonder, so sensual and so compelling- finally it just powered along with more nuances with each refreshing sip. A wine that could accompany many foods, and was not elbowed aside by a truffled croquette. 96 points.

1990 Trimbach Clos st hune Riesling 14%
Approached with some trepidation as a bottle tried in 13/5/2013 unexpectedly threw me in to delivering a perfect score.

Was I delusional? Would another bottle disappoint?This wine from Alsace has a bright clear gold colour; but amazingly, almost pungently floral. Light honey, lemon peel, bottle age, flint ripeness. Palate, silky, fluffy, candied dried fruits, flint, stone, mineral. The magic combination of richness and freshness.

Another 20 years in sight. 98 points.  (Notes were similar)

1990 Jaboulet Hermitage la Chapelle 13.9%
Everyone’s favourite in a bracket of 3 Hermitages including 1990 JL Chave and 1990 Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavilon, and so easy to love. Very dense colour, with trivial bricking; barnyard, earth, butterscotch, then the palate runs rampant with dark cherry, tar and more earth, some smoky, dried meaty aspects. Oak is entirely vanished, we’re left with a slinky vinous old-vine palate of fine, fine tannins. Memorable and contemplative – mature wines don’t really come better.
Drink to 2040, 98 points


another Champagne masterclass

I wrote about a tasting of Champagnes in December 2015, and once again the Bureau du Champagne and Sommeliers Australia hosted another enlightening tasting in late June.

Kate McIntyre MW and Wiremu Andrews led the way, with tulip glasses (not flutes) correctly deployed, and a cunningly selected cross-section of Champagne presented.

Wines were served in brackets of two, with part of the exercise to determine what the underlying themes were. This was impossible for me; my Champagne consumption is limited by budgetary consideration to less than one bottle each month, so familiarity with house style is theoretical (and some house styles are on the move).

Participants were encouraged to concentrate on structural aspects (such as acid profile, phenolics and oak) rather than merely aromatic and flavor descriptions. This required severe concentration, but was rewarding. Given Champagne winemakers have variables such as reserve wines, MLF options, oak maturation, dosage, and time on lees, it’s no surprise that trying to unravel blending decisions and assess outcomes while compensating for confounding effects from glassware and serving temperature is problematic. And in the real world, a further complication exists – food matching, which vastly impacts appreciation.

Too often Champagne is merely used as an introduction to the “serious” wines at a tasting – it warrants much much more attention.

fizz masterclass jun 2016

Bracket 1; same cépage but different houses (Pinot Noir predominant)

  • NV Canard Duchene
  • NV Bollinger

Bracket 2; same house, different cépage (Chardonnay predominant)

  • NV Delamotte Brut
  • NV Delamotte Blanc de Blancs

Bracket 3; Vintage 2006

  • 2006 Moet & Chandon
  • 2006 Mumm

Bracket 4; same house NV vs Vintage

  • NV Pol Roger
  • 2004 Pol Roger

Bracket 5; Rosé , saignée vs red wine addition

  • NV Pommery Rosé (saignée)
  • NV Jacquart Rosé

No worthy notes, but the Delamotte Blanc de blancs was a revelation for me. No poor wines here, but it all depends on what you look for and prefer (elegance vs power; what kind of mouthfeel). I left with renewed appreciation of the blending art of Champagne; constructing a wine from lots of moving parts, and an (expensive) determination to drink more Champagne

Champagne – some personal education

I went to an event recently, with the guidance of Sommeliers Australia, the Champagne Bureau and some previous winners of the Vin de Champagne awards, notably Kate McIntyre MW. After an intro mainly on Champagne terroir, plus tips about not swirling, we began with a bracket of Blancs de Blancs, so we could identify more positively Chardonnay influences. Usefully we began seeking apple characters, melon and a linear acid profile.

No scores, as time was not kind, and I was busy listening and thinking. I expect bottle variation (cork, disgorgement, and storage) may vary results.

Nv Pommery “summertime”. 3 years on lees, 9g/l rs. It’s a party! The doughiest, with bread, lemon and spices. No complaints

2006 Jacquart. Pale, finer style, steel and minerals, waxiness too

2004 Taittinger Comptes. Ultra-fine and all class. Tight, really mouthfilling. Certainly my preferred wine in this small set. It will be super in a few years.

Then we looked at some wines with Pinot Noir and Pinot meunier in the blend; looking for different aromas; acid profile more rounded, and greater texture. Some believe red apple is a pinot meunier pointer.

NV Henriot Brut Souverain; 50/50 Chard/PN; red berries, rose-petal; fluffy. Smart

NV Charles Heidsieck; 1/3 each PN, PM, Chard. Chalk and charcuterie; my preferred wine here but faded slightly as it aired and warmed – perhaps won’t be long-lived

2006 Moet. 42% chard, 39% PN, 19% PM 5g/l rs.  I didn’t like this; too reductive, a fair bit of “animal” and seemed a bit attenuated. Certainly more interesting than the ocean of Moet NV.

Then some rose styles. I’ve resisted purchase in the past as they don’t seem to represent VFM, and I’ve have had some oxidation problems – but I am mightily impressed with results when it works. Very food-friendly- fish, chicken, cheese, light desserts….

NV Lanson Rose– a pale orange colour, strawberries and some cold tea – but straightforward. No malo, so some may find the acidity overdone (not me). It’s value!

NV Bollinger Rose. Salmon colour, fine texture, candied fruits, fresh with some refreshing and added-interest phenolics – maybe better with less dosage.

NV Roederer Rose. My favourite in this bracket and overall on the day. Pale salmon colour, strawberries, finesse, purity, length (no malo). Seductive.

There was brief discussion about whether zero dosage was a fad – there is a general trend towards reducing dosage levels with larger companies performing this gradually so as not to frighten their market. The larger houses have the benefits of  blending options from multiple sites and stocks of reserve wines; the downside is perhaps some blandness in their NV offerings. Growers may be less consistent. There was very brief discussion about mlf and oak treatments – but nothing on seals. Acidity was another factor discussed.

The wines selected were all from larger houses rather than the smaller growers that we are seeing now in Australia, but it was enlightening to see a range of Champagne rather than just one or two. To my great surprise, Australia is the 5th largest Champagne consumer in the world (not per head, but in total), so we are significant.

All up, a quite terrifying overview of the complexities within Champagne, and another budget temptation with the rose styles.