I do this blog for fun, the wines here are some of the very few I can be bothered to write up. The cream has risen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


[dek-uh-duh ns]


1. moral degeneration or decay; turpitude.
2. unrestrained or excessive self-indulgence.
3. possibly both of the above due to drinking 10 vintages of iconic wines.....twice in one night

I had an early Xmas present when I was invited to join Roger Pike of Marius Wines, and Mark and Anna Day of Koltz Wines, to taste the fermented fruits of the last 10 years of their labours. Of course I said yes, and before I could worry that somehow my 'expert' opinion would be needed, I was informed that the Drinkster, Philip White, would also be joining us.

It seems Roger and Mark had been talking, and probably drinking, and had this wild and crazy idea to compare their wines for the last 10 years. When I say compare, I mean the vintages of their own wines, since we are talking about two quite different styles of Shiraz. Both of them are flagship wines with many years of accolades, but just as a refresher...

Mark and Anna make the Koltz Pagan, a wine based on the Italian amarone style. I won't go into that too much here, or this will end up as a book. Basically the grapes are harvested slightly earlier than most Shiraz in the Vale to preserve a bit more acid, which is needed because then they are dried for a number of weeks, then crushed and fermented. This results in wines that are extremely powerful in fruit flavours but also with great balance and complexity. The kind of complexity that late picked fruit bombs can never come close to.

Roger makes the Marius Symphony, a straight Shiraz. I used to write reviews on it, you can search back if you're interested, but I'm not reviewing it anymore cos too many of you buggers bought it, and now I have to fight for an allocation. Full bodied and savoury, it is quite different to the Pagan in style.

To make it clear what we are talking about, here's some pictures, which would be worth considerably more than 1000 words. Please click for larger versions.

There was no 2006 Symphony, so the 2006 Symposium subbed in, and the Marius vineyard threw a wobbly in 2009 so no wines were released. The 2013 is not released and had only been in bottle a coupla weeks.

Pagan started in 2003 and the 2012 is the last that has been bottled at this time.

I did take notes, and I was driving, so they are possibly good notes. However, I had this clever idea, rather than trying to read my hand writing, I could ask the winemakers what their thoughts were. So I posed a few questions, and Mark and Roger were kind enough to answer. I caught Mark with laryngitis and luckily it inspired verbosity. My questions/comments are in italics;

You've obviously tasted all your wines many times before, was there anything you thought was new in the nature of the individual wines when tasting the wine with such a large vertical? -
this could be new aromas/flavours, or progression of secondary characters, or structure that wasn't obvious without the comparison

Roger: Not really. The only real surprise was the freshness and vibrancy of the 2007, which was a difficult drought vintage.

Mark: Interesting point re secondary characters and evolution. I think what I found quite interesting is that even the older wines are really only just starting to show mature characters. It always surprises me how well and slowly they age. The 2003 was a real experiment and probably a little too out there, but from the 2004 I think the similarities within the differences is very reassuring. The technique seems to provide some consistency regardless of vintage and even variety.
Ten years ago, when you made that first wine in this series, did you have an expectation of that wine at 10 years old? And if you did - clearly you'd be happy how it turned out - but is the wine as you expected?

Roger: I didn't have enough to go on to have an expectation, but I probably hoped that it would turn out like it has. (Note, the first Marius Shiraz was 2000, but the first Symphony was 2004)

Mark: Expectations were not really considered when we did the first wine in 2003. I had worked 5 vintages in Valpolicella and had loved the amarone wines, and we thought to try and produce something similar with Shiraz here in Australia. I knew that amarone aged well when well made, but to be honest had not thought that far. I am happy with the way the style has evolved because I think the wines have some amarone character, despite the varietal and regional differences.

In my opinion, the 2007 and 2011 wines, in particular, shared a lot in common between the two wineries, despite the very different styles, vineyards and wine-making techniques. Nobody is going to taste a Symphony and mistake it for a Pagan, but what is your feelings comparing between the two wineries in those vintages?

Roger: Yes, that was surprising, almost a revelation. The similarity of the character of the wines was most evident from those two difficult and most extreme vintages. What really surprised me was the similarities between the wines from all the vintages. Despite different wine styles, different vineyards and even different sub regions the vintage shone through.

Mark: It was amazing how the vintages characteristics with some vintages were consistent across two different vineyards, style and makers. We often think that the drying process removes a lot of the vintage variability but clearly it does not do so absolutely, and this is probably a good answer to your previous question re things that surprised me. Vintage variability is somewhat maintained in the drying process. Another reason for this I think is that they are both single vineyard and both Roger and I are fairly non interventionist in our winemaking style ( drying process aside ). 

... and also on the "difficult" vintages in direct comparison of 10 years of your own wines? 

Roger: That's a difficult question. I think that the 2007 and 2011 look a little different from the other wines, but not in a negative sense, just simply a little different.
Mark: Again there is some reflection of the difficult vintages. 2005 was a massive vintage as is the 2005 Pagan and 2011 is a little restrained, probably because we had to shorten drying time.

My view is whilst your wines are very consistent in quality, they are surprisingly individual in character. If you agree, is that something you try to achieve, or is it rolling with what the vineyard gives you? 

Roger: It is what the vineyard gives me, every year is different.

Mark: We do try and get consistency and a overall style which reflects the Pagan. Within the differences I think the aroma/nose always shows some consistency and suggestion of the amarone style. As with any single vineyard wine I think it is important to be true to the 3 factors - vintage, vineyard and style. This tends to maintain similarities from year to year but hopefully allows the scope to reflect vintage. I think that showed with both Symphony and Pagan. I thought Rogers wines showed great stylistic consistency but also vintage variation.

I have my own personal favourites, apart from 2012 which clearly is a vintage that will appeal to the broadest palate range, but is there another stand out you wish you could have kept/made more of?

Roger: Another difficult question. Making more is a fantasy (Symphony is a single vineyard wine), but I wish I had kept a dozen or two more of all of them.

Mark: Consistent favourite for me is the 2006 but I also like the 2007 and 2012. The 2003 will always be a sentimental favourite as it was the first and the funkiest.

Is there anything you learned from this that will affect how you make your wine over the next 10 years? 

Roger: No. I just hope that I can make these wines for another ten years.

Mark: I am always thinking about tweaking the style and continue to drink good amarone at any chance I get, and to look at the evolution of the style and the different styles made by different producers and vineyards. You have to be careful though, that you don’t take away what it is that people like about your wine. Probably safer to create a new wine. I would like to look at a more reserved elegant style with lower alcohol and RS if I did do a new wine. In a sense this is what we do with Wizard.

Other thoughts?
Mark: It is interesting making this style in the present market space as there has been a push to lower alcohols and more subtle wines. I also love savoury, subtle wines relying less on primary fruit and more on balance and structure. The Pagan however is based on a style of wine that traditionally has high alcohol but I believe it has its place and with good winemaking it is balanced and avoids being ‘hot’. I suppose I learnt again that I love this style, it has its place and I will continue to make it.


I hope to post my notes at some point, but this article is already fairly long. However, let me give you the tip that the 2012 Pagan is simply sensational, and probably my favourite Pagan...or was it the 06? Possibly the 09 or 11...

I had better also mention something about the 2013 Symphony, so here's my notes:
Very young (bottled 5 weeks), but showing great balance at this time. Very full bodied and has a richness and power unlike the other Symphonys, possibly because of it's youth. Superb length. Will not be seriously ready to drink for a very long time, but that would not stop me from trying in a year or so.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Eccolo Sangiovese 2012

We typically have home made pizza on Friday nights, so I thought I'd open this Sangiovese, seeing how both have Italian origins. My wife made hamburgers, of course.

This is not really a hamburger wine.

Then again, I was told by Mark and Anna Day, who make the Italian Amarone-style Koltz Pagan, that some of their customers paired that beast with fish and chips. I applaud their decision to not decide between the two, and telling the pairing gods to go jump. Pagans all around.

Mark and Anna also make this wine. I'd explain why they call it Eccolo and not Koltz, but I forgot to ask, and who cares anyway. What I do know, is there is also an Eccolo Sagrantino, and Eccolo Garganega (clearly named by someone who had a mouthful of it at the time), and all three of 'em come from the Adelaide Hills. They are all bloody good, thus clearly the choice of vineyard locations was spot on.

Back to the Sangio. First sip, I'm thinking "this is very nice", then about 15 seconds later the flavour really wells up and I'm now thinking "bloody hell this is good!". There really isn't very many wines that do that. Savoury? Yeah, of course, but it's the lively fruit that you really notice. It's fairly full bodied but light on it's feet. I reckon I could drink a fair bit over summer, and autumn, and spring. I'm saving winter for Pagan rituals.

I'm having a hard time scoring it, I feel I may be swayed by how incredibly nice the winemakers are. I also happen to know Mr. P. White has already reviewed this recently, and what if I score it higher? I try to be a hard marker, I don't like to trump everyone else's points, I have more hair on my head than me eyebrows after all. Right, I'm going with Highly Recommended+, so probably a 93/94 on the White scale.

P.S. Actually, it went really well with the hamburger. So now I've got a bottle of 2012 Pagan (incredible wine!) just waiting for some fush & chups.

P.P.S. Apparently PW thinks it's a 92++, he's probably been into the vodka again, but he'll be correct in a few more years.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Burge Family Winemakers Mourvedre Grenache 2010

Let's be clear here, we are talking about wine made by the Barossan Burge who still makes all his own wine, and his name is Rick. The other Burge winemaker is Grant, they are cousins and their wineries are close, but their wines have far less in common than the winery name might lead you to erroneously assume.

Rick makes his wines in a quite refined somewhat old world style. Of course he's making them with good Aussie new world fruit, so we get the best of both worlds.

There's a lovely balance and poise to this wine. It's one of those slurpers that you try to roll around on the back of your tongue for a few milliseconds more, just to make sure you've got all the good stuff coating yer buds. And then you suck on the insides of your cheeks because you don't have any taste buds there. After that you lick yer gums, for obvious reasons.

As a bit of a Mourvedre fan, I'm rather pleased to say it's a little different to every other Mataro I've met, but in an interesting way. Perhaps it's mis-labelled and it's got Monastrell in it instead?

As not much of a Grenache fan, I'm also very pleased to say there ain't no raspberries in here. This Rick fellow seems to know his vines.

Savoury yet fruit driven, voluptuously slinky, balanced and with a long future should the cork gods be on your side. Roughly 60/40 dry grown Mourv and Grenache, that lived in old oak for 22 months.
Highly Recommended++ and *****

Slight rant on the cork, I hate them, a lot. However, Rick is one of the few who at least attempt to replace wines with the same vintage should you suffer cork problems, which is extremely rare - replacing with same vintage I mean, cork problems are by nature unpredictable. They do keep a decent amount of museum stock, which is not a bad way to buy some well aged wines, especially their Draycott Shiraz.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

La Curio The Dandy Shiraz 2012

In theory, I've done the wrong thing. This is nothing unusual, of course, there would be a large number of times this week. Ask my wife for a list if you need more information.

This wine has only been bottled a few weeks, and when I bought it, I even had the sense to ask Adam Hooper when it should be ready to drink. Adam is the winemaker, and hence his opinion on the matter should be considered as good advice. He said maybe 3 weeks. So, I waited a 6 days.

I had tried the wine previously at a tasting with some friends from the Australian Wine Tasting Group, though their name suggests they possibly could be wine snobs, they are actually just unrepentant alcoholics who read somewhere that wine can make you live longer, and are now testing the theory for themselves. On that previous tasting I was the driver, and I've never done well doing notes from sip and spit, probably because the spitting part distresses me too much.

Anyway, all of the wines I tried that day from La Curio impressed me, and at the time I thought the 2012 Dandy might well be my bargain of the year, if only I could swallow a bit more. Now, on the few times I think I am right I kinda want to know ASAP that I really am right, even if it's only in my own mind (see para 1).

So, it turns out that whilst I was possibly wrong in opening the wine too soon, I reckon I was correct in saying this is my wine bargain of the year at least in the sub-$25 bracket.

A beautiful complex fruit driven nose with classic McVale spices and 'erbs, plus there's also a bit of late afternoon summer's day, where the sea breeze has kicked in, wafting Nanna's almost cooked roast* aromatics out on to the porch, and strangely even a bit of Grandad's new fangled tractor can be detected - I assume the breeze went past the tractor parked in the hayshed on the way through to the kitchen.

The body is voluptuous with some muscle supporting those curves, ie. fine and firm tannins. A long finish and lovely balance completes the cast.

This is a glass-gets-empty-fast wine, so I'm going to give it a Highly Recommended++ and *****.

I stuck a ++ on the end there more to indicate that it will age well, but this is such a vibrant delicious wine as a 2 year old that I'd encourage people to drink it young as well.

* my Nanna ever did a magnificent roast. I miss all about her, but her great cooking, learned as an early 1900's farmer's wife, made lifetime memories. Grandad used to plow the farm with a team of horses in the early days, but he saw the value of a tractor, even if he missed power napping going home because the horses knew the way, and the 30yo tractor never did manage to learn it.

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tait Ball Buster 2010 (Shiraz Cab Merlot)

In case anyone is worried, I drank it and my balls are ok.

However, I must take issue with the back label:

"She's broad shouldered, built like a stallion..."

I really am keen to avoid visualising that.

So, back label rates Unacceptable in my book. In a certain Thai area perhaps it rates higher.

The wine itself is considerably better, black and blue fruit, decent hit of oak, balance is good with a nice blend of Barossa richness and yet still some a savoury undertone.

I want to rate it Recommended but the back label is just so bad in many ways. If you like 'em rich without being overly sweet then this should suit you, and at $18ish ****

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Marius Harvest 2014

This was my fourth Marius harvest, and thankfully the coolest yet.

As always, a good crew, made up of Roger's customers, so there's a bit of self interest here to do a good job. The benefit here is the pickers are also the sorters - it's our job to snip off the under-ripe berries and keep an eye out for bunch stem necrosis.

Adelaide had some wacky weather this year, with record number of days over 45C and then 100mm falling on the CBD a few days later. So not surprisingly there was more fruit variation this year, but the vast bulk of the fruit was very good, and compared to a BV vineyard I saw, still very consistent.

Of course the vineyard's micro-climate means Adelaide's extremes weren't the same here, Roger's babies only got 40mm, and the sea and lake breezes kept the heat down. That rain was pretty much spot on to wake the berries up after they'd gone dormant in the heat, so they could continue to ideal ripeness.

As usual, there's a fair bit of variation across the small vineyard, but the most obvious difference to the last few years was the western rows by the evil pines were slightly more fruitful, yet still had the same wonderful complex flavours.

Our group now holds the record of the longest picking day, well unless the Wed crew beat us. Anyway, we were well rewarded, as the last 2 photos show.

For some crazy reason I've offered to pick again next weekend. It's probably guilt, and feeling like I need to pay up for the aforementioned last 2 pics. Either that, or I'm looking for an escape from the elections being held then.

Enjoy the photos. click for bigger versions.

 Dawn over the vineyard. At 7am you wonder wtf you're doing up on a Saturday, but by the arvo you're bloody glad it's not far off beer oclock.

 Black pearls.

Bit of variation in the bunches this year, still the usual tiny berries but the 45C followed by 40mm of rain confused some vines. The grapes that were ripe were lovely, but more bunch stem necrosis and a few more scattered under-ripe berries needing snipping off this year.

 A tad more foliage than previous years, mostly due to the viticulturist (Roger) almost dying last year with Septicaemia. Thankfully he's a lot healthier now, but his walnut crushing grip needs to build back up yet, so pruning has been a problem.

 Better bring me a bucket
As a goal oriented person I found it somewhat disturbing that my 90% full bucket would often be swapped for an empty one.

 Five 700kg bins was the plan, we got pretty close.

The 07 Simpatico, a very good wine especially considering the difficult vintage, however Roger felt it's probably at or near it's peak and he advised drinking in the short term.

  2007 Symphony is a bit different, more fruit power and will go a few more years yet

 Harry showed us his sausage. It's Boerwors, a Seth Efriken mix of spices and meats, all healthy stuff, which you can tell simply by how tasty it is.

We played a few rounds of options. Apparently brown paper bags are hard to come by in this neck of the woods. 

The only shot I got of the 2012 Symphony. It's a recalcitrant beast that needs to be flogged into giving up it's goodies, as it's only been bottled for a short while. Lovely tannins, shows much promise.

Such fruit power here and yet great balance. Hasn't really changed in the last year that I can notice. Will go many years yet if you have some.
What a sexy creature this is, I believe the first of it's line. If the starts align, there could be a sibling in 2014.

The oldest screwcap wine I've had, and one of the very best wines I've ever tasted. This was the transition to screwcap, with 60% under stelvin and 40% under tree bark. This one was screwcap.

It is simply magnificent! The pessimism about seals and aging under screwcap is clearly unwarranted, as this wine proves brilliantly.

Also, that is not Roger's signature.

The pipe is Rogers. It does not ever contain tobacco, but it does smoke.

Not shown wines tasted were a 2010 Symphony, which Roger feels will go 20 years comfortably. I also absolutely stand by my claim that 2011 Marius are outstanding wines, the Symphony is starting to sing now.

I did a second pick so here's a few more pictures:

Bird's eye view
A fair bit of bird damage across the Vale, some lost half their crops, but only a few small sections of the Marius vineyard was badly pecked out.

 Shady picking
Not a lot of need for shade on that last saturday, was pretty cool all day

Driving up in the morning there was donner und blitzen (not the reindeers), though first flash I though was a speed camera (I was not speeding)

but in the end no rain until the end of the day when we were comfortably inside.

 Only leaves left now, and they'll be gone soon too

Tagine, cous cous, Coq au Vin, mashed taters, beans and crusty bread,
courtesy Peter the chef
Went down perfectly as the rain started and the wines flowed

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thomson Estate Back Blocks Cab Sav 2011

In 2011 it pissintently rained in Clare. Noah was called, but his ark was too small to save much of the rizza from the rivers. So you'd tend to expect ye late ripening variety Cabernet Sauv to not fare thee too well. But the Back Blocks it seems to have been in a rain shadow, or at least yon viticulturist for said vineyard is more savvy than cabby, because this is pretty damned good stuff, and is a wine anyone in 2010 woulda been proud of.

The tannins are beautiful, they are of that dark chocolate coat your tongue variety. It's a wine of finesse and class, but there's also a fair bit of power here, not remotely wimpy at all.

Blackberry, Kalamata olives, bit of 85% Lindt, wild mint from my garden (trust me, it par-tays), cedar and a bit of old Toby.

Good length and lovely balance. However, I regret two things. First is I've opened it about 5 years too soon, and secondly I only bought one bottle.

Recommended++ and ****

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lazy Ballerina Shiraz 2010

James Hook made a fair bit of 2009 Shiraz, he planned to sell some to the US, but then the mining boom gave the Aussie dollar a jolt. So 2009 got an extended tour of duty at Dingabladinga.

The flow on from that is the 2010 got time to age a bit more, at least a year longer than is the norm, and two years longer than most of the industry. This is a particularly good thing for us consumers. It means that on release the wine is almost a four year old. So from the start we get to drink a wine that's been cellared for us, and by the guy who's gonna look after it better than anyone else. I will note he was mildly distracted by nabbing a wife and producing the next generation of LB winemaker in the meantime, so it's not like he had time to bottle it anyway.

I should also add that James' wines aren't the sort than need to be imbibed in the short term. This baby will still learning to walk long after Ms Emmaline (currently age 1) is dancing without the need for dad to provide the locomotion. Thing is, when Ms Twennyten starts dancing I expect she'll be a singing Ballerina. Melba Pavlova perhaps?

One of the side effects of Twennyten taking longer to arrive, is she gestated in the barrel somewhere around 30 months. Thus the first whiff is a decent waft of oak, but fear not, this is good oak, it's not quite as forward as it first seems, and indeed blends in to the other good bits when you get around to noticing them. Bit like Marilyn Monroe walking into a room really.

I said "she" before, and I will stand by that, it seems James is focussed on producing ladies for the present. This is such an elegant wine, it's got such a feminine nose, not exactly perfumed, but just lady-like, and the package is voluptuous, without being more than a handful.

A little bit red fruited on the first day, but went completely black a day later. Quite clever that really, Marilyn does the wicked witch? Belgian chocolate coated blood plums and a sprinkle of spice. No peaches Nellie.

Now, to the tannins, and as you would expect from a lady's ensemble, they are rather silky. I wanted to use the word "firm" too, but felt that analogies can go too far. Acid I didn't notice, by which I mean it was just right.

You could drink this now, but should you wait 10 years, there will be some singing and dancing, and in a tutu too. The you may be in the wrong place there.

Highly Recommended+++ and *****

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cork Crazies

At Adelaide Cellar Door Festival a week back, one winery proudly proclaimed they are moving back to corks. We immediately stopped tasting and moved on. I am baffled the industry is still this crazy and doesn't understand why we hate them, now that we've tried the alternative.

Listen up you wineries persisting with the gambler's seal, and consider what's best for the consumer for a change.

1. Cork sealed bottled are harder to store
They require being laid down, which is fine for your full cases in the winery but it's rather annoying unstable once you take a bottle or two out. They also require a humid environment for good long term seal. Of course every wine enthusiast has their own climate controlled cellar, or incredibly expensive wine fridge, right?

2. Cork sealed wines need a corkscrew
I was at a BYO wedding in the middle of a wine district, and it was both sad and amusing seeing a number of wine industry people wander around trying to borrow a corkscrew.

3. Cork sealed wines can't be resealed easily
This makes taking home half bottles from restaurants/picnics harder, and even at the picnics/parties there no risk of spilling the wine with screwcaps, ignoring the drunkard's pouring skills.

4. Old corks often crumble
I really hate dealing with a crumbling cork, it's messy and likely to end up with me picking bits of cork out of my glass, or teeth.

5. TCA aka cork taint
Oh, good wineries will just replace that corked wine, so no problem right? Wrong. I have carefully cellared your wine for 10+ years, I open it on a special occasion and am I rewarded for that patience?  No, I am actually penalized instead.

5.1 So, if I am going to open a cork sealed wine, particularly an old one, I need to have two wines on hand, and if wise one of them will be a screwcap, because most of us have had 2 corked wines in a row.

5.2 Then I have to go through the hassle of contacting the winery and asking for a replacement, being quizzed about how I stored the wine as though it's my fault. My time is wasted yet again, it wasn't enough that you wasted my time at the opening of the wine, now I have to chase you and justify myself to you because of your bad decision.

5.3 Wineries generally only replace with current vintage. Understandable that they won't be keeping 10% of production back for later replacements, but I've just wasted 10+ years of cellaring and I typically won't be compensated for it. This is an unwanted gamble too, what if current vintage release is poor one?

I will add one more thing, which should be the sole reason you stop using cork. Most people who try your wine will not give you a second chance to impress them.Why would you risk them trying a sub-par bottle? The average wine drinker is more likely to simply assume the wine is made badly, rather than blame the cork, and then ignore your wines from that point.

I could go on, easily, but the point all wineries should have picked up by now is that it's not about you, or your wine, it's about me, the consumer and the problems you're passing on to me. I'm the one not buying your wine, there's already more great wine than I can possibly drink in a lifetime anyway, so thanks for helping reduce my buying list.

At least one American wine magazine publisher, Harvey Steiman of Wine Spectator, is trying to drag the recalcitrants into the modern world. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Paxton Jones Block Shiraz 2010

Always had a soft spot for Paxton's wines. They are a bit nutty there, playing with horns and manure, dancing dynamically under a full moon, and just generally doing things in their own super organic way. The thing is though, they seriously care about their vineyards and wines, unlike the conglomerates who see wine as just a commodity.

I first tried this as the Adelaide Cellar Door Wine Festival, and it was one of the few that really stuck out as something special, mostly because of it's intensity of flavour and impressive length. All the more impressive as I'd been tasting for nearly 2 hours by then, and it takes something special to stand out.

A deceptive wine, it's really not that much above medium bodied, but quite flamboyant on the palate whilst retaining a fair bit of class and style. Silky tannins, great acid balance, lovely complexity and just pretty damned yum.

I breathed this for 2 hours and it's just getting better the longer it's open, so do yourself a favour and give this wine a good bit of air if drinking it anytime soon. The rest of mine will be going for a 10 year sleep.

Rating: Excellent++ and ****

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cradle of Hills Shiraz Mourvedre 2011

Well, that's three great vintages in a row for this blend. In fact since it's also the first 3 vintages from Paul and Tracy, I'm calling it The Hat Trick.

However, they'd already decided to call it the Darkside, which is perhaps more accurately descriptive, and also less ostentatious.

Speaking of threes, this is the third time I've tried this wine. The first time it was the barrel components, which I had to mentally blend, and limited though my mental faculties are, it's pretty easy to add yum + yum and come out with the answer "very yum". The second tasting was shortly after the brutality of bottling, and on a fairly warm day, and so with the maths right but the physics wrong, the teacher wrote a note in red pen to "see me later!".

Fast forward a few months, and the grumbling, sulking, confused child has come along in leaps and bounds. She's still a bit of a Goth though, with those intense black eyes, and lets face it, you don't want your kids to be boring and nondescript. She dances out the room with such grace and balance anyway, so that you can't help but be impressed.

The tannins are simply excellent, probably due to the cooler vintage allowing slower ripening. Make no mistake, this is no wimpy lightweight, and indeed a number of 2010s wish they had such a muscular and sporty physique.

Plenty of dark fruit, chocolate, and even a bit of pipe tobacco, which probably cheekily sneaked over for a menage au trois from the Cab barrel when Paul had his back turned. There's plenty more in there, but with all those intertwined body parts, it could take years to work out what belongs where.

It's 72% Shiraz, 23% Mourvedre and 5% Grenache, and as I mentioned in the Splash+Merge write-up, that small amount of Grenache does make a positive difference. I think I suggested 60/35/5 to Paul at that time, but he was obviously worried about me claiming royalties if he used it.

Highly Recommended++ and ****

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sieber Road GSM 2010

On day one, I was pretty happy with this wine, and because I had another wine open, it managed to last until day two.

On day two, I am loving it. The complexity of the blend is now prancing around the palate.

On day three, I will lament that I have less patience than I would like to have.

The wine started out a bit straight up and down, somewhat like a maypole at the end of the dance, where the ribbons of flavour were quite mixed together and tightly wound. As pretty and impressive as a finished maypole may be, the excitement is when the dancers are weaving and wafting, tied together but free to show their own style. So here we have the reverse maypole dance wine.

Fruit driven with red, black and blue, chewy tannins, balanced acid, good length. This will reward patience. Drink now with some Thai curry, or hide it in the cellar for 5 years or more.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Drinking over Xmas break

If you can't make out the label it's Marius Simpatico 2011.

The location is Sheaoak Flat on South Australia's Yorke Peninsula.

Took some photography skills because the wind was howling, I really needed blue tack for the glass;

You'll note I saved at least some of the wine in the glass. Sadly, my wife washed it out.

Gomersal Wines Mataro 2008

The Gomersal area of the Barossa is west of Tanunda, and in my self educated opinion a particularly good region for Mataro. The grapes for this wine are grown as bush vines and are extremely low yielding at half a tonne per acre.

Medium bodied but with a good backbone, north African style spicy and intense flavours, the fruit is mainly red and blue, with mouth watering acid on the finish.

This is the current release and rather nice to see Mataro coming out with a fair bit of age, as it is a grape that really does benefit from some bottle time. Try to keep some for another 10 years though.

Highly Recommended+++

Apologies for a short review, I am in too much of a holiday mode just now to write more, even if the wine deserves it.