Friday, August 22, 2014

Marius 2012 Releases

Today the 2012 vintage Marius wines were offered to mailing list members. I won't be reviewing them for two main reasons. Firstly, Gary Walsh gave the Symphony a staggering 97 and the Simpatico a lowly 95 on the Winefront - you can read the reviews on the Marius website. Secondly 2012 was a low yielding vintage after the 2011 cool/rainy one, and the confused vines produced maybe half what they normally would.

So you see, should you wonder if Gary is possibly off the mark (all those Barolos can't be having a good effect on him), there is so little of the 12's that it's not like you'll need a second opinion, snoozing will turn to losing in double quick time.

I verbally ordered my cases back in 2012 based on grape tasting, but I'd best go write out that order form anyway.

Cry "Havoc!" and let slip the hounds of points!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Attollo Quinta

I thought I was being clever when I made the deduction that a wine called Quinta would have 5 grape varieties in it, and that based on the pink purple rim one of those was Touriga Nacional. After all, we're talking Margaret River where four varieties to the bottle is common.

Well, Sherlock I ain't, there is Touriga in it, but the only other variety is the well known Tinta Cao. I've just gotten back from Vietnam (good morning!), and I reckon that was possibly the name of the dish I had at the restaurant on the last night. Apparently Tinta Cao means red dog (please, no Vietnamese meal jokes), due to to being extremely low yielding. Clearly a grape that the masochist Julian Scott would love, and I believe the name Quinta refers to the Portuguese vineyard classification.

If you were to hand pick about half a tonne each of the above varieties from Yallingup, fermented them with a Portuguese speaking yeast, and put it in old French oak for some malo, you'd end up with this wine. Well, you would if you'd experimented for a few years beforehand.

It completely belies it's 15.8% and I would have expected closer to 14, which I deduced from it's fairly low acidity and svelte tannins. Despite it being fairly late picked, Julian's judgement of the varieties is spot on with no obvious sweetness despite the numbers. The fruit is wonderfully complex and has a beautiful herbal character on the nose and tongue, and perfectly dances the line of savoury and fruity without either being dominant. The finish is long and very more-ish. It goes down far too easily, but that's hardly a negative.

I really like this, Highly Recommended++


PS. the Vietnamese meal was actually Cao Lau, which I also recommend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

R.I.P. Jeremy Pringle

I just read the very sad news that Jeremy Pringle, who wrote the wine review blog Wine Will Eat Itself, is no longer with us. I never met Jeremy and I only had a few quick interactions with him on Twitter, but I feel compelled to tell the world how much I thought of him.

When I started wine blogging I had a look to see who else was doing the same thing, to see if I was rehashing the same old stuff, so it was amusing to me to find a wine blog seemingly named for that very idea. I read his blog regularly, and he was one of the few whose reviews I considered reliable and genuine, and most importantly to me, entertaining.

Jeremy had style and class, I wish I could write half as well and remotely as concisely. I wish I had told him that.



 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Attollo Touriga 2012

I had written my review of the Attollo Black wine over a month ago, then failed to click publish as I was madly prepping for a month in Vietnam. Considering the very hot weather in Vietnam it's been a while between reds for me, though I did try the local Da Lat red completely misnamed "Excellence". I recommend the beer.

The people at Seppeltsfield like their Touriga, they make fortified wines from it. They used to called them Port, but the Portuguese followed the French lead and claimed ownership of the name. I hope we've done the same to g'day and owyagoin, especially as the bloody Yanks are using Outback for some steak place and even using 'no worries' as a sales slogan.

Back to the topic, the Portuguese as you might know use Touriga in their Ports, but also in the dry reds, and in fact that's where Touriga originated in the Douro Valley. Apparently Julian likes those as he was inspired by them to make this wine. It also means he's somewhat crazy as the vine is one of the lowest yielding wine crops, and requires being harshly treated to convince it to put it's energy into the grapes rather than growing more greenery. We're talking Touriga Nacional btw, just in case there are any Touriga experts wondering.

Near half a tonne was picked from a vineyard in Donny Brook, which had a cold soak for a week before being introduced to a Portuguese yeast which had it's wicked way with the juice for 10 days. Basket pressing, malo and 14 months in a barrel followed. In the end only 75 half dozen cases were made.

Uncommonly, though typical of the variety, it has a very pink purple rim, leading to a black core. Quite a robust wine really, it's somewhat insisting something should be char-grilled, pronto. The kind of people that would inspire this wine live on craggy mountain slopes where the women no longer claim to be tougher than the men, because the men had already conceded it generations ago. Very savoury, fruit to the background, firm tannins and a fairly long finish.

Recommended+ though if you're at Gaucho's then it's a HRec! Well worth trying if you're looking for something new and interesting.

Attollo "The Black Wine" Malbec 2010


I had meant to write up the rest of the MR tour but I've got a bit on the plate atm and can't seem to manage that. However, this is such an exciting wine I need to get it out there.

This wine, and indeed Attollo Wines, are a project of Julian Scott, who is also a winemaker at Flametree Estate in Margaret River. We met Julian on our winery tour of Flametree (a post yet to come) and shortening a long story we also stole a few bottles of his Attollo wines to try when we got home.

Malbec is rarely used as the main variety in Australian wines and you'd not often see it go much over 15% of the total volume in blends. They do use it in 'Bordeaux blends' to give a bit more body, complexity and tannin structure. I'm betting it's pretty tricky to make into a varietal when you consider for this wine 1.7t of Malbec grapes resulted in only 560L of wine bottled, which is somewhat a testament to Julian refusing to compromise on wine quality for the sake of volume and selecting only the 3 best barrels.

There are only a few wines each year where I think "wow" when trying them, and this to me is a wow wine.

A blood plum rim is the only hint of colour, otherwise she's as black as the label portends. A very heady nose, not over extracted or alcoholic mind you, but rich like a Belgian chocolate shop. It's very perfumed too, perhaps a bit of lavender in it. It's fruit forward but not at all sweet, and clearly made by blending satsuma plum, blackberry, pomegranate, espresso, nutmeg, and cardamom. In a witches cauldron. Which was recently used for love potions.

I managed to hide the bottle away for another tasting on the second night, and was rewarded for my patience with a bit more of everything above. It almost made up for the chastisement I got from my wife for daring to take it away from her the night before.

The balance is very good, with a long finish.

I'm going to rate it Excellent++ particularly because there are so few wines of such individuality and character, but also because it's just so enjoyable.

If you want to know where to buy this wine, Julian can be contacted here

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Juniper Estate 2014



The first winery of our May 2014 Margs trip was Juniper Estate. On arrival at cellar door we were taken to the barrel store where a private tasting table had been set up for us. I think they had mistaken us for someone important.

Clearly they didn't know who I was because they had whites for tasting. What the heck I thought, if they can pretend I'm actually a wine expert, then I can pretend to be one, and I condescended to taste the whites. It turned out to be a win-win, where I did all the winning.


2012 Juniper Estate Semillon
What is this stuff? Semillon can't taste this good! I was so amazed to have a white wine of such complexity and balance that I failed to write any serious notes. I did scribble a score of Highly Recommended+++ and to cellar it for another 5-10 years, if you can.

2012 Juniper Estate Chardonnay (not Crossings)
They make about 400 cases of the Estate, and about 800 cases of the Crossings Chard, so pretty small volumes. Some of the guys by coincidence had the Crossings on the Qantas flight over and thought it must be the top tier Chard it was that good. The Estate Chard is made with wild ferment which adds complexity, it's fairly fully bodied with balanced acidity and a creamy but not oily mouthfeel. Very slurpable now but will be more interesting with time. Recommended++

2007 Higher Plains Chardonnay (museum release)
The best Chard and white wine I've had in a decade. Extremely well balanced with fabulous complexity, exemplary acid, nutty and fruity palate with hints of peach and flint. This wine is an outstanding example of why you need to consider Margaret River a premiere Chardonnay region, and also why you should age them a bit. Excellent++

2011 Shiraz
As the first of the MR Shiraz it completely stood out as quite different to my usual SA Shiraz diet, much more red fruited but still fairly full bodied. Somewhat savoury with hints of mace and nutmeg. Comes from a vineyard near to cellar door, planted in 1973, and 45% new oak barrels. I wouldn't want to drink it all the time, but this turned out to be one of the best Shiraz in the region. Highly Recommended+++

2004 Juniper Estate Shiraz
Showing some of the same regional flavours as the 2011, this wine is far more developed as expected but with plenty of primary fruit still left. Quite powerful flavours and wonderful complexity. Excellent+



2011 Messenger
A first release, blended from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It wasn't even released officially, and when I asked if I could buy a few, Steve went to check on availability. He came back saying he couldn't find any labelled bottles but did drag winemaker Mark Messenger out to meet us instead. Mark chooses the best barrels to blend this wine from, hence it's name. A very complex wine with power and finesse, lovely tannins and should be brilliant in a decade or so. There's not much made at all, if I can read my scrawls right I think it's only 100 cases, so get in early. Excellent+++

2010 Higher Plains Cabernet Sauvignon
About 90% Cab, a splash of Malbec, and a dash of Petit Verdot and Cab Franc. Savoury, fruit forward, wonderful tannins, long finish and a wine built to age. Highly Recommended++

2010 Juniper Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Typically this wine spends 30 days on skins and then 15 months in French oak. There's a bit more power to it and the finish is impressively long. I slightly preferred this and I reckon it will age exceptionally well. Highly Recommended+++

2004 Juniper Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (museum release)
Despite being 10 years old, it is still very vibrant but with exceptional developed complexity, coupled with power and outright sexiness. This turned out to be one of the best wines of the trip and strongly encouraged me to view MR Cabs as longer term cellaring wines. Outstanding++

Starting at Juniper Estate set the bar so high that I was somewhat concerned that we wouldn't find anything else as good. They were fantastic in giving us a great overview of what MR clearly does best, and how well those wines can age. We did find other great wines, and we certainly continued to experience fantastic hospitality at many other wineries there, and at some point soon I hope to write about those as well.



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Margaret River 2014



The actual Margaret River

I've just returned from a week long stay in Margaret River doing wine tasting pretty much all day every day. My liver grumbled at this abuse, but I told it if JH can sit in his office and taste 10,000 wines a year, then surely we can cope with a measly few hundred in a week.

I went with some of the guys from the Australian Wine Tasting Group and we were certainly shown some great hospitality to go with the fantastic wines. In the wine review world we are nobodies, but we felt like rockstars at times, doing barrel tastings and sipping museum wines in the barrel store with winemakers.

Our aim was to get a good overview of what Margs produces and what varieties and styles it does best. We also wanted to know why the big names got famous, and also hunt out the up and coming smaller guys that have trouble getting their wines into the retailers in the east.

It's a beautiful region, and the green fields filled with cows make it pretty clear why a bunch of dairy products hail from there. But the best thing about the place is the friendly people, and I highly recommend a stay in the region.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting some excerpts from the copious notes I took, though it didn't convince my liver I was working. Hold on to your glasses, I may have even tasted a few whites... 

Sculpture at Thompson Estate - they do like their sculptures in Margs