Mid-priced imports

 

midrange imports

We’re recently allowed some small gatherings, but I opened these two wines at home recently; they are not monstrously expensive – (Kabinetts $35-70 depending on brand; the Fonseca LBVP was around $50 recently) – but sweeter German Rieslings and the uber-fashionable dry GGs can easily exceed $100; Vintage Ports from the sensational 2016 and 2017 vintages are, alas, closer to $200.

2008 JJ Prum Bernkastler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 8.5%
Gifted to me a while ago; my go-to Prum is the Wehlener Sonnenuhr, with occasional deviations to Graacher Himmelriech (Bernkastler Lay can be special too). 2008 was an “open” year, but Prum is usually backward, fully priced but usually delivers. Mosel Kabinett is “off-dry” but Prum tends to be sweeter than expected, and can still last many years.  Very pale, there is the tell-tale red apple and petroleum, nettle, earthiness and spice notes. The palate is highly acidic, with some grippiness- nashi pear, citrus, apple. Varietal, distinctly Mosel, but drink up while the fruit remains intact- the acidity is pretty dominant, which won’t be to everyone’s favour.

Drink to 2023,  88 points

2011 Fonseca Late-bottled vintage unfiltered 20%
2011 was a mighty year for Portuguese Vintage Port; late-bottled is an easier, more approachable, (and more affordable category), with a longer time in oak (or tank) to ameliorate some of the tannic stuffing. Confusingly, the LBV wines may be ready on release – or capable of cellaring. Unfiltered is a clue that some ageing is expected – yet there was no discernible sediment here, and the stopper was another surprise.

This wine was bottled in 2016, and is nearly crimson in colour. It displayed fig, blueberry, plum, violet and mixed spices and wild herbs; the palate showed cherry, milk chocolate, spices and sound spirit integration. 108 g/l residual sugar is neatly balanced with the fruit, and alcohol. Fine tannins add further interest. I was hoping for greater concentration, but it’s so easy to reach for another glass – a great test of a wine’s engagement.

Drink to 2025, and 90 points.

 

 

 

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)

1985 Taylor’s vintage port 20.5%, again

I reviewed this wine in April 2016, and again in August 2018- and my final bottle was very recently consumed. Notes turned out to be similar!

Taylor’s is a distinguished house, with a useful, informative website.

1985 taylors vp 2019

The label was a bit damaged; the cork “almost” came out Ok, and the results from this good – albeit not outstanding -Portuguese vintage?

The wine is a solid ruby colour, with vibrant aromatics including fig. cocoa, dried citrus peel, sweet spices, and an intrigue of mixed blue and red berries; the palate is medium bodied but more substantial than expected – it shows fruitcake, hazelnut and mellow mocha characters, with some spicy, malty, almost gravied hints. The spirit and fruit are deliciously integrated with a sweet, lingering finish.

Beautifully put together, the wine provides complexity and freshness; drinking superbly

Drink to 2035, and 94 points.

 

Portuguese Vintage Ports; and cork problems so far in 2019

Many of the wines I drink are served “blind”; the wines below were briefly and typically presented as “a fortified”. The task? To describe, and determine style, age, origins and sometimes the producer. Encounters with two recent fortifieds left me confused.

I described the first as a vintage port style, showing blueberry and violet fruits, and some spicy notes. This mix of fruit aromas indicated Portuguese origins, but the relative sweetness suggested Australia, as did the spirit hotness and sweetness  The suppleness of the tannins, and a touch of chalk and almond meal however suggested Portugal. I assessed the age as 15-20 years, and the wine as very good but not excellent quality; finally the tannin descriptors made me stray from Portugal. The wine was a 2001 Taylors Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port.  Drink to 2026, and 91 points

The second wine was a 1994 Dow’s Vintage Port– “sweet, ripe, pruney” -were my first descriptors for a wine that didn’t excite me. The lack of elegance (incorrectly) pointed me to an Australian origin. This wine is from a widely declared year in Portugal, and when revealed, I expected better. Hindsight suggests some oxidation, so I have not scored this bottle. It will have another chance!

I have updated the “hall of shame” in the page “corks and statistics” For 2019 so far, issues with TCA or oxidation of wines – under cork-  that I own and have opened unfortunately reached 9.62%.

As usual, I have had no failures with wines under screwcap, diam or crown seal.

An Alsace VT, and a Portuguese Vp

2001 Louis Sipp Kirchberg de Ribeauville  (grand Cru) Pinot Gris (vendanges tardive) 12.5%
Alsace provides disproportionate disappointments caused by cork- oxidation and TCA. The discard rate should make anyone extremely wary. When the wines behave as intended they can be magnificent (the 1990 Trimbach Clos st Hune Riesling garnered a perfect score from me once; a second bottle a few years later was almost as memorable, and I have tasted awesome bottles from Josmeyer and Zind-Humbrecht).

This Louis Sipp wine was a final gamble– a bottle tried a few months ago was oxidised to undrinkability. Pinot Gris is a low acid, “quiet”  variety (undistinguished in Australia), but if aiming at the “gris style” with sensitivity, ripeness and some residual sugar, it can be a surprisingly adept partner with fish. Obtaining texture without phenolics being too overt is the winemaking key; alcohol, residual sugar and winemaking finesses are important.

2001 louis sipp pg vt

Vendanges tardive indicates late harvest, but the residual sugar level – moderate but an easily discernible amount- is unknown. The wine is golden in colour, displaying tropical notes of pear, baked apple, mango, honey, spice, and glace fruits. The palate is drying out, but still exerts attractive grapey sultana character, mandarine, yellow peach and mixed spices to wrap it up.

Better a few years ago, but a decent, well-chilled bottle will provide considerable enjoyment

Drink now (or via time machine a few years ago), 89 points.

1980 Warre’s Vintage Port 20%
Served blind, and a translucent brick colour, this wine exhibits mocha, almond, vibrancy and is relatively dry for the style; then fig and rose-petal emerge. Uniformly identified as Portuguese by commentators at the table, Warres was the house deemed likely. Its age was assumed as a declared but “lesser” year. This wine is a further triumph for 1980, showing a winning combination of life and mellowness ,with a wholesome, lingering palate.

Drink to 2030, and 92 points.

1980 Dow’s Vintage Port 20%

Dow’s is part of the Symington stable, with its vintage ports regarded as relatively dry for the style.

1980 is regarded as a “lesser” – but still declared – vintage in Portugal, but this wine shone – despite a pretty soaked cork.

1980 dow's vintage port
It still possesses plenty of brooding colour, with even some crimson left; camphor, dark chocolates, figs, blueberry, spices (nutmeg and cinnamon). On the palate it’s a drier, savoury style, delicate, and lively with clean spirit, very smooth and persistent; almond-meal, redcurrant, and mulberry.  “Correct” and very stylish, with fascinating melange of flavours- blue, red and back fruits; its balance will see this wine hold for many more  years – a magically impressive bottle!

Drink to 2030, 94 points.

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.

 

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..

1985 Fonseca Vintage Port 20.5%

Fonseca (or more correctly Fonseca Guimaraens) is a highly regarded Portuguese Vintage Port producer, and its excellent website, with notes covering this vintage is here.

I look forward to finding an occasion – and enough enthusiasts for the style- to warrant opening a vintage Port. The cork has fulfilled its task, and came out in very nearly one piece; decanted for several hours, the wine was tackled in several passes over several days, but always with delight.

1985 fonseca.jpgIts colour is still a robust dense ruby, with no bricking. An array of scents includes fig, cocoa, almond meal, chalk, and dried herbs. The palate is medium bodied, but voluptuous, with blueberry and liquorice adding to the picture. The finish is extensive, and fine, the spirit folded in seamlessly.

There is no need to rush this delicious 32 year-old wine; it will remain in thrilling form for many more years.

Drink to 2032, 94 points.