Rushed impressions – recent blind tastings

1998 Ch Coutet 14%
2000 Ch Coutet 14%
(Semillon 90%, Sav Blanc 9% muscadelle 1%)
Neither are from a “top” year, yet Coutet seems to have a knack of over-delivering for its price. Both these wines are in the drink soon category.

Barsac, both swerved blind- I had to beg a small sample of the second, as our table’s bottle was TCA affected. These were stylistically similar, both showing obvious development of colour and aromatics; the older wine slightly flatter, with orange marmalade and icing sugar notes; the second wine with vanilla, light pineapple, camphor – and certainly some forgivable floor polish VA – cinnamon notes, and altogether a better wine than its components indicate.

89 and 91 points respectively

2003 Taylors Vintage Port
Portugal. Our table’s bottle was again TCA affected, but remnants from another bottle arrived.

Cherries and other red fruits, almond meal, liquorice and light tannin- pleasant but slightly skinny; my guess was an LBVP or a quinta wine. After the “reveal”, this was a disappointment from this maker and looked more advanced than expected. Maybe a lesser bottle?

Drink to 2027, 88 points

1980 warres vp 2

1980 Warre’s Vintage Port 20%
Portugal. This was a much more vibrant and youthful bottle than the one I described a few months ago.

Developed but still ruby; blue fruits abound (a pointer to Portugal), roses, mixed spices; a soft but hauntingly persistent palate – mocha, fine dark creamy chocolate, integrated spirit, mixed red and dark berries.

Drink to 2032, and 94 points

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One spectacular (Oz) fortified

1992 S&K Vp

1992 Stanton and Killeen Jacks block Vintage Port 19%
Rutherglen; 90% Shiraz, 5% Durif, 5% Touriga

From a special year in North-east Victoria, the back label shows 3 trophies and 12 Gold medals from credible wine shows. The (late) winemaker Chris Killeen rated that year’s vintage fortified wine as 10/10.

This wine is amazingly fresh for its age, and beautifully balanced. Cork and level in terrific form. It absolutely deserved its decant to remove the plentiful sediment. Very floral – dark cherry and some blackberry, red berry, toffee apple, lavender, mocha, fruitcake nut and spices are all present. The palate is dry (for Australia) and the persistence is exemplary. An absolute treasure, drinking amazingly well, but with power in reserve. Skimpy notes, as the group (and myself) tucked in, leaving nothing for a next-day retaste!

Drink to 2037, 96 points (I was very tempted to give 97 points)

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

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.

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

1976 Orlando Vintage Port 18.3%

Barossa Valley. “Limited Special release” with “potential for further cellaring”, Shiraz and Carignan, and possibly a better wine than the “unlimited ordinary”. A wizened cork, but no drama after 46 years.

1976 orlando vp new

An auction purchase last year for $20, this was insane buying, and a much better bottle than the previous one. Very dense garnet colour with some bricking on the rim; there’s sweet dark fruit, sweet spices and superior brandy spirit; the palate is plush and engaging, blueberry, blackberry and plum with a bit of mocha and red liquorice, all still fresh and crisp. A winner that looks good for another twenty years – cork permitting. Classic Oz. Exciting.

Drink to 2035, and well deserves 93 points

Two sweet, and two strong

2000 Ch Rieussec (Fargues, Sauternes) 13.5%
1999 Ch Coutet (Barsac, Sauternes) 13%
These were served as a pair (masked). The first wine had more of a copper colour, but with definitive Sauternes character – vanilla, cumquat, wax, honey, bitter orange and citrus rind. It seemed ripe, ready, and enjoyable. 2000 was a wet year with a small crop – 65% Semillon, 24% sav blanc, 11% muscadelle.
Drink to 2025, and 92 points

The second wine also seemed typically Sauternes, albeit with less overt acidity. Pale orange colour, melon and tropical pineapple were its key features. This was also ready, but in a subtler style than the first wine. Sound, correct but few thrills. 75% Semillon, 23% sav blanc, 2% muscadelle.
Drink now, 90 points

I (correctly) guessed both wines were from the mid to late 1990’s, and from “lesser” years.

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One sweet, one strong

1996 SA Huet Clos du Bourg Moelleux 1er trie 12.5%
Chenin Blanc, Vouvray, Loire Valley (biodynamic since 1990).

Huet is a famous maker, with a range including sparkling, sec, demi-sec and sweet. Clos du Bourg is regarded as its “top” site. Chenin Blanc is a high acid white wine variety, entirely undistinguished in Australia (although it played an important role in old Houghton White Burgundies, and there are a few brave producers persevering, such as Coriole).

1996 huet

The cork was unremarkable but had performed its task, and the colour was bright gold. Despite its sweetness level (70 g/l?)  this wine was deliberately served with a meal as a savoury white wine. The acidity was completely integrated and concealed the inherent sweetness. Apricot, cumquat, baked apple, honey, marzipan and shortcrust; resoundingly fresh and savoury in intent (regardless of its  analytical sweetness).  Super-complex, it was just a delight to drink and a reminder of the potency of the best wines of the Loire (much harder to find in Australia than they deserve).

Drink to 2030, and 94 points (for surprise value, a higher score is warranted)

1971 Metala Vintage Port
Langhorne Creek, South Australia, likely Shiraz.

Langhorne Creek is not a “renowned” area for VP styles in Australia, but it’s full of surprises. Its longstanding contributions to the red wines of Wolf Blass cannot be ignored. Bleasdale makes an array of excellent Malbecs – and much more- Lake Breeze deserves greater recognition,  as does Bremerton.

The label of this wine had effectively disintegrated, but it’s understood to have been recorked (and possibly tweaked) in 2015. Huon Hooke has an illuminating article on the recent buyback of the Metala brand here.

But it was another knockout to drink – another 51-year-old wine consumed only weeks after the All Saints.

Liquorice, dark fruits, cream and pie crumble, dark berries, dried fruits and the most startling feature was its freshness – a lovely piece of history.

Drink to 2030 and 93 points

1971 All Saints Vintage Port

Australia has a prolific number of wineries and wines with “saint” embedded in their names; St Hallett, St Hugo, St Huberts, and St Leonards are merely some that I have purchased. All Saints (established in the 1860s) is an old winery near Rutherglen that went through complex ownership, marketing and labelling upheavals (it’s now owned independently by members of the Brown family.  Visiting as a youngster, I prowled through the enormous hall where barrels of fortified matured (since mostly sold off), the castle-style main building, and the vast estate grounds full of numerous buildings.

This wine was served blind, and my impressions ran “mocha/toffee/coffee, cherry, then very dense, obviously old, sweet blackberry, traditional in style, but still fresh, lively and delicious”. My conclusions- “Australian vintage Port, likely early 1980’s, and unable to guess origin – if pushed, South Australia”,.

Regardless, it’s special occasion when I taste a wine over fifty years old.

Drink to 2030, with 91 points (higher if history nudges wine appreciation more).