Hunter Valley Sunset

A recent long weekend provided an overdue opportunity to spend some time tasting in the Hunter Valley. I’ll just give some general impressions on some of my favourite wines as I was writing quick notes rather than any great detail. There are plenty more brief notes on Cellartracker for the wines I didn’t include in this post.

Some general thoughts on the vintages, 2011 seems to be a very strong year overall for both Semillon and Shiraz. 2012 for Semillon is not as strong in my opinion and from what I’ve heard the reds in 2012 were almost entirely wiped out, a disaster. 2010 is not generally considered a good year in the Hunter for Shiraz due to rain during harvest, but I tried a number that were excellent.

On the whole, the experiences provided by the cellar doors were very good. If I had one general complaint, it’s that I wish the ISO tasting glasses would be phased out. I understand there is cost involved in replacing glases, having to cater for ways to wash them etc, but I think if you are trying to show off your product at its best and some of your competitors are using good glassware, it puts you behind. Only two places that I went to charged a tasting fee and one of those was still using ISOs – I think if you are charging a fee it is reasonable to provide some good glasses.

Anyway, on to the favourite wines and wineries.

Lake’s Folly
Good glassware and always a worthwhile viist (during the few months they are usually open each year). Only two wines (although there are some special releases every now and again) so you can taste quickly and move on.

  • 2012 Lake’s Folly Chardonnay – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Spicy, nutty and oats with some pear aromas. The palate is powerful, with good mouthfeel and nice balancing acidity. There is oak present but I found it quite restrained. I liked it, but couldn’t justify buying this vintage at the asking price ($65). 90/100

  • 2011 Lake’s Folly Cabernets – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Spice, cherry and licorice on the nose. Sprightly and vibrant palate, with very good depth and carry. Very much in the Lake’s Folly classic style of Cabernet, this is great but really needs time to unfold. 92/100

Meerea Park
Very good glassware, Riedel restaurant or similar. $5 tasting fee redeemable on purchase and a minibus full of people came in and left due to the fee, which was good for our experience as the staff were already quite busy. The service was a little but slow at first, but the lady serving us was doing a good job and was friendly once things slowed down a bit. I had a poor experience here a few years back, so I was glad that it went well this time.

  • 2003 Meerea Park Sémillon Terracotta – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Burnt butter, orange peel and wax aromas. Palate has medium complexity and intensity, leading into a quite good length finish. Drink now and over the next 3 years. I thought this was good value for money for a 10 year old release. 91/100

  • 2008 Meerea Park Sémillon Alexander Munro – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Lemon, some bubblegum and some nutty character already. The palate is still youthful with bright acid and good texture developing. It was a bit off-beat but I liked it and think it will develop well over the medium term. 90/100

  • 2010 Meerea Park Indie Shiraz Pinot – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    80% Shiraz, 20% Pinot Noir in a nod to some of the old school blends from the Hunter Valley. Cherry, stems, pepper and plum aromas. The tannins stand out on the medium bodied palate, they are grippy and need some time to be absorbed. I’d like to see this in another 7-8 years to see how it is doing. 90/100

  • 2010 Meerea Park Shiraz Hell Hole – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Very earthy nose with licorice, dark chocolate and raspberries. Very deft palate balance and some compelling depth to the fruit. The structure is spot on and this is a wine that should age wonderfully. My favourite wine on the day at the Meerea Park cellar door. 92/100

  • 2010 Meerea Park Shiraz Alexander Munro – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    A more dark fruited nose than many of the other releases tried at Meerea Park, with blackberry, earth and plum notes. The palate shows oak influence but it is well handled by some powerful and quite deep fruit. The aforementioned oak and some fine tannins contribute to impressive structure and this wine should be left alone for some time to age and develop. 91/100

ISO glasses. A disaster overall, it is my fault for not looking into it more but it was on the way to another location and it has a good reputation. I found the wines to mostly be unable to stand up to critical analysis. Only 7 out of 17 wines offered were from the Hunter Valley which is not necessarily an issue but I do prefer to taste Hunter wines when I’m there. The wines that did impress tended towards the very high point on the pricing scale. At one point there were 12 people being served by 1 staff member who was doing their best but was unable to provide good service to everyone.

  • 2010 Bimbadgen Shiraz Signature – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    A more serious wine and quite good. Plum, black pepper, blackberry and cedar. More depth and layers to the fruit and I found much better balance than the other wines tried. Very good. 90/100

First Creek Wines
ISO glasses. A good setup with seating around barrels and friendly staff. Wines were vacuum pumped after every pour, which I understand is a commercial decision but I can’t help but feel it hurts the aromatics of the wines with this constantly being done each and every time.

  • 2011 First Creek Wines Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Reserve – Australia, Tasmania, Southern Tasmania
    Stemmy, cherry and nicely bright and floral nose, there is some oak in the background too. Palate is similar with bright fruit and good length. The fruit is quite forward but there is some structure evident as well. I liked this, but it is quite expensive at $45. 90/100

  • 2012 First Creek Wines Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre – Australia, New South Wales
    Meaty, cherry and plum with raspberry and spice. Medium bodied and good carry with the spice character coming through on the mid-palate into the finish. Tasty! 90/100

  • 2011 First Creek Wines Shiraz Winemaker’s Reserve – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Floral and quite earthy on the nose, with some spice and blackberry. Good depth with layered fruit and very good structure. Very young and needs some time to age and develop. 91/100

McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant
One of the highlights of the trip in terms of experience (and some pretty good wines too). We started off with ISO glasses but as soon as they saw I was serious they brought out Riedel and also swapped to a different glass a few times for the different grapes/styles. The staff were excellent and kept bringing the better wines for us to taste without me having to feel like I was begging them for a pour from bottles that they already had open (like at some other cellar doors).

  • 2009 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Sémillon Phil Ryan Signature – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Second picking grapes from Lovedale. Lemon, light toast and hay aromas. A big step up in depth over the 2011 Elizabeth before it. Has driven acid and great balance. Will age well over the medium-long term. 90/100

  • 2006 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Sémillon Anne – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    A declassified Lovedale after the winery decided it wasn’t up their required standard. Very youthful nose still with lemon, lime and light florals. The acidity and structure is a clear step up on the other Semillon tried so far. Great length and intensity, this is still developing but should get better over the medium term. 91/100

  • 2007 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Sémillon Lovedale – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Consistent with previous tasting in December last year. Straw, light smoke and hay on the nose and it has already taken on some waxy notes. Youthful and intense on the palate with good length and texture. Give it time. 91/100

  • 2009 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Shiraz Rosehill – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Charred oak, raspberry and earth. Palate is medium bodied but with some good savoury intensity. Textured and well balanced. Drink now and over the medium term. I slightly preferred the 2010 but this was very good. 90/100

  • 2010 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Shiraz Rosehill – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Earthy, with raspberry and roses. Palate is savoury and has great depth and balance. I really liked this quite a bit, just a touch ahead of the 2009 for me right now. Has good potential as the structure is there too. 91/100

  • 2010 McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Wines Shiraz Maurice O’Shea – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Floral, with spices and earth – layers of aromatics that lift this above the other wines even when it is so youthful. Medium bodied palate and with superior balance and structure. Great length and superb potential. This is one of the best releases of this wine that I can remember tasting. 93/100

  • 2009 Barwang Cabernet Sauvignon GDR Hilltops – Australia, New South Wales, Southern New South Wales, Hilltops
    Blackberry, olives and toasted oak. Lots of structure on the palate, the tannins are fine but they do take centre stage at this point. I think this needs at least a couple more years in the bottle in order to be really enjoyable. 90/100

Gundog Estate
Riedel glassware. Cellar door staff were fun but they didn’t seem very interested in the details, I kept having to ask for the vintage after every pour etc.

  • 2013 Gundog Estate Sémillon Wild – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    2-3 weeks skin contact. Floral, citrus and passion fruit aromas. Skin contact element is subtle, perhaps contributing to the good texture. There is a pinch of residual sugar but the acidity cuts through. Very good. 90/100

  • 2012 Gundog Estate Sémillon Off-Dry – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Apple, pear and slate. Nice minerality with a lick of sweetness. For me, just a bit better balanced than the 2013 edition. 90/100

  • 2012 Gundog Estate Sémillon Poacher’s – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Flinty, minerals and lime. Bright palate, with good balance and freshness. A good mineral element to it. Good length, a nice wine. 90/100

  • 2012 Burton McMahon Chardonnay – Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Yarra Valley
    Wheat, grains and some oak influence. Good texture, it’s nicely bright but still has complexity. Enjoyable. 90/100

  • 2012 Gundog Estate Shiraz Gundaroo – Australia, New South Wales, Southern New South Wales, Canberra District
    Intense aromas with five spice, cherry and black currant. Good length, with nice intensity as well. Lovely length actually, and has the potential to age over the medium term. 91/100

McLeish Estate
ISO glasses. A surreal experience, the staff member was friendly enough but seemed to have little idea about how vintages work and also found it hilarious that I was taking notes. The wines were good and they had quite a vertical of the Semillon available to taste, but I don’t think I’d go back soon.

  • 2005 McLeish Estate Sémillon – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Honey, orange peel and floral notes. Medium bodied and nicely developing. Drink now to around 2018. 90/100

De Iuliis
Riedel glassware. Great cellar door staff, who were happy to let me taste reserve wines and so on. A good experience here.

  • 2011 De Iuliis Sémillon Sunshine Vineyard – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Lime, lemon and minerality on the nose. Very good clean acidity and nice length. Bright fruit with intensity and drive. Should age well. 91/100

  • 2005 De Iuliis Sémillon – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Lemon and just starting to hint at toast. Bright and clean palate, with good texture. it is starting to gain some roundness but the acidity is so cleansing. This is still on its way upward. 91/100

  • 2009 De Iuliis Chardonnay Limited Release – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Buttery, with spice and wax. Nice palate development already with good texture and depth. Mouth feel is rounded and pleasant. 90/100

  • 2010 De Iuliis Shiraz LDR – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Blackberry, spice and floral notes. Lovely spice on the palate and very fine tannins giving the wine structure. Medium bodied with great balance and very good length. 91/100

  • 2009 De Iuliis Shiraz Limited Release – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Bigger in style than the LDR Shiraz, this ramps up the oak influence and spice, with violets and some layers of black fruit. The palate is medium bodied but leans toward the heavier sides as well, it has good fruit depth and plenty of structure but loses out on some of the elegance that I really like in great Hunter Shiraz. 90/100

  • 2011 De Iuliis Shiraz LDR – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Very floral nose, with some spice and graphite. Delicious on the palate. Great length and structure, there is a core of minerality that drives and completes the wine. Great stuff. 92/100

Hermitage Road Cellars
Worst glassware of the trip, smaller than ISOs. Staff were friendly and enthusiastic but showed some basic wine knowledge errors. A number of wineries were avialable to taste but the Andrew Thomas wines stood out. Would come back to taste the Thomas wines if the Small Winemakers Centre is a crush of people like this time.

  • 2012 Andrew Thomas Wines Sémillon Braemore – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Lemon, apple and light floral notes. Bright fruit with lovely length and balance. 90/100

  • 2010 Andrew Thomas Wines Shiraz Sweetwater Individual Vineyard – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Floral, violets and spice aromatics. Good tannin structure overlaid with savoury fruit. Good length. 90/100

  • 2010 Andrew Thomas Wines Shiraz Kiss – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Tightly wound, some spice, rhubarb and violets. Palate has good fruit depth. Structured well, but doesn’t have great interest at this stage. 90/100

Tasted at the new cellar door running in parallel with the old site, I don’t think the new location is as good as the old one but the choice is still there. ISO glassware. Complimentary goats cheese and bread sticks with the tasting, a nice touch.

  • 2012 Scarborough Wine Co Sémillon White Label – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Citrus (mostly lemon) and sherbet. Much better acid here than the 2011 Green label. Good body and minerality. Some time in bottle will serve it well. 90/100

  • 2010 Scarborough Wine Co Chardonnay Yellow Label – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Nutty, fig and lemon. Good acidity and balance on the palate. I like this, I’m not sure how it’ll age but it’s pretty tasty stuff now. 90/100

  • 2011 Scarborough Wine Co Chardonnay White Label Selection – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Spicy oak and straw. Much more elegance here than the 2010 and 2009 White Labels. Good texture and length with potential. 90/100

Keith Tulloch
ISO glassware. Seated tasting either inside or on the verandah with a nice view across the valley. $5 tasting charge redeemable on purchase. Limited range available to taste but the Kester is the top wine and I managed to get a taste of the Field of Mars Semillon without too much prodding.

  • 2012 Keith Tulloch Sémillon – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Pear, florals and spice. Good structure with bright acid and fruit intensity balancing. I tried this a couple of days prior at a restaurant and while it was more open this time, it still needs some age to show its best. 90/100

  • 2011 Keith Tulloch Sémillon Field of Mars Block 3 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Pretty nose, with florals and pears plus good minerality. Mouthfilling without roundness, there is good texture and drive on the palate. Great balance and even better potential. 91/100

  • 2010 Keith Tulloch Shiraz Kester – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    4 hours in the decanter. Tightly wound still, with spice and cherry as well as tobacco and earth. Good fruit depth and the savoury/fruit balance is spot on – providing interest against the plush, tasty fruit. Structurally very good too. Come back to this in 10+ years for its best. 91/100

ISO glasses. A bit of a struggle to get to taste the better wines and still missed out on trying the Johnno’s, 4 Acre etc.

  • 2007 Tyrrell’s Sémillon HVD – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Toast, wax and citrus peel. Better depth than the previous Semillon tried, it has good carry and some minerality. Still very youthful but it is starting to soften a tiny amount – should still be given some time to develop further but won’t need long term aging. 90/100

  • 2007 Tyrrell’s Sémillon Vat 1 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Tight nose – some lemon and minerals with light smoke. Texture takes a step up over the 2007 HVD. Appealing length and depth to the fruit. Too youthful, give it more time. 91/100

  • 2012 Tyrrell’s Chardonnay HVD – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Appealing aromatics – some perfumed floral notes, very light oak and lime. Well textured and balanced with good length. Should develop nicely in the medium term. 90/100

  • 2008 Tyrrell’s Chardonnay Vat 47 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Quite powerful nose with wax, melon and straw. I really like the texture, with cleansing acidity and powerful fruit that never feels out of balance. Very good. 90/100

  • 2011 Tyrrell’s Shiraz Vat 9 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Lower Hunter Valley
    Pepper, earthy, blackberry and cherry. Nice elegance to the palate, it is tightly wound but will be very good with more time. 90/100

  • 2011 Tyrrell’s Vat 8 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    4-5% Cabernet and the remainder Shiraz. Nice aromatics – floral, dark chocolate and cherry. Medium bodied with lots of earthy spices on the palate. Good mouthfeel and length. 90/100

Audrey Wilkinson
Served in ISO glassware. Cellar door is in a stunning location on top of a hill, with great views down into the valley. Service was friendly.

  • 2011 Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    Spicy and toasty oak along with flint and pear aromas. The palate has nicely woven minerality and intensity of fruit. Very young and has the potential to get much better. 90/100

  • 2010 Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Shiraz The Lake – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Cherry, raspberry, spice and very light earth – otherwise it is clean and vibrant. Really pleasing sense of structure to the palate through fine tannin. Balanced and with good length, I really liked this but had to pass at $65. 91/100

  • NV Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard Vin De Vie Hunter Valley – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Brandy snaps and strawberry. Quite fresh on the palate, not too heavy and the spirit element doesn’t stick out. Enjoyable. 90/100

Restaurant Wines

    Wine highlights tried at various restaurants on the trip.

  • NV Pierre Gerbais Champagne Tradition Brut – France, Champagne
    Biscuity, with honey, floral and lime notes. Lovely purity to the fruit with fantastic acidity and length. Very very good Champagne. 91/100

  • 1992 J.B. Becker Wallufer Walkenberg Riesling Auslese trocken – Germany, Rheingau
    Great colour. Nose shows ginger, pear, apricot and light honey. The palate has lovely spice and great length. Drinking right in the slot now. 91/100

I organised a tasting recently with the intent to compare two top-tier Australian cooler climate Shiraz, both from the Grampians region in Victoria (plus a few ring-ins, here and there).

The Seppelt St Peters Shiraz was originally released as Seppelt Great Western Hermitage in 1964 (winning the Jimmy Watson trophy in 1965, a prestigious award, especially back then) and is mostly a blend from two vineyards adjacent to the Seppelt winery, St Peters and the Imperial vineyard. St Peters was one of the first vineyards in the region, planted in 1863 and subsequently replanted during the 1930s and 1960s. Occasionally there is some material from other vineyards around 4 kilometers to the south blended in, but the two mentioned always form the majority. In 1998 the wine underwent a branding change and is now known as St Peters. The wine is matured in a mix of new and old French oak, for between 12-18 months.

We also tasted two “reserve” wines in the Seppelt lineup, from 1997 and 1998. These were winemaker selections of the 10 best barrels, and those 10 barrels happened to be a higher percentage of new oak compared to the final wine but they did not spend any extra time in oak as a number of sources online indicate. I think there is sometime a touch of pre-judgement involved where people expect them to be heavily oaked based on the incorrect belief that they had spent a good deal more time in oak. Unfortunately the “normal” 1997 was corked, but the 1998 flight was offered blind as well and I asked people specifically to see if one stood out as having significantly more oak and while one might have seemed to have a tiny touch more, the general feeling I got from around the room was that it was far from obvious. The flight was split evenly with 5 voting for the normal and 5 for the reserve before they were revealed.

Mount Langi Ghiran is about 30 kilometers south east of Seppelt and the vineyards here at the base of Mount Langi were replanted in the 1960s. The wine is from a single block known as the “Old block”, planted to “swiss clone” material sourced from Best’s Great Western Concongella Vineyard. The clone is apparently only found in the Great Western region in Australia and Mount Langi Ghiran are working with Michel Chapoutier to find out more about this clone via ampelographic and DNA research. This clone is one of the reasons that Trevor Mast, former owner and winemaker, believed was responsible for the distinct pepper character often found in this Shiraz. The wine we tasted saw a mix of American and French oak and it was mostly new. The wines that we tried at this tasting ran up to the last vintage where Mast was head winemaker, and the style was changed following his departure, including switching to entirely French oak, with less % new.

Overall I think the tasting was quite successful, there were plenty of diverse opinions about the wines we tried and I thought it was good to see that not many flights had a clear “winner”, with 3-4 flights ending in a tie and I believe in every flight there was at least one vote for each wine, meaning there was plenty of interest across the line up.

I feel like we got a good idea of the styles of both wineries by the end and it seemed like half the people fell on the side of Mt Langi and the other half on Seppelt. The Seppelt wines seemed very consistent in style (and also consistently very good), where as the Mount Langi were more up and down, which for many proved much more interesting.

Two wines were corked, one from both brand, each winery has offered a replacement with no drama, which is great customer service and was much appreciated. Both were also helpful when I was compiling information for a handout to pass out at the tasting, but especially Seppelt who put me in touch with Melanie, a winemaker there who went the extra mile to help with my questions!

  • 2009 Vouette et Sorbée Champagne Cuvée Fidèle Extra Brut – France, Champagne
    Fairly consistent with other bottles – Pinot Noir dominant and intense nose with cherry, earthy, autolysis character and honeyed aromas. The palate counters the richness and punch of the nose with a cleansing citrus acidity, while still having great depth and intensity to it. Not sure that others at the tasting liked this as much, but I think it is an interesting wine that is worth looking at. 91/100

  • 2012 Kalleske Viognier Plenarius – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Another really lifted nose – this time is is orange peel, nutty, mandarin, musk and apricot. The palate has brilliant texture, I was quite smitten by it actually. There is some light tannin that gives it some grip and I think it is really well balanced with a rush of acidity to finish. This really impressed me, I’ve had only a few wines in this style that I’ve really liked, and this was definitely one of them! Super value at around $25 for a wine with this much interest as well. 92/100

  • 2009 Grampians Estate Shiraz Rutherford Sparkling – Australia, Victoria
    Crown seal. Quite a lifted nose with cherry cola, violets and some light earth. Nice savoury mouthfeel while still having a dose of sweet red fruit. The fruit sweetness isn’t overpowering and I think this is a well balanced wine with good intensity and length. I haven’t tried this sparkling Shiraz previously and I’m keen to give other vintages a go at some point. 90/100

  • 1988 Seppelt Shiraz Great Western – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    The cork was in poor shape, though the level looked to be fine and the wine seemed in reasonable condition. The nose in particular had lots of interest with dense earth and spices, as well as a splash of florality right at the start. The palate did not have the same character to it – it was resolved and holding on to life but also a bit flat, especially towards the finish, confirming its best years were probably past. It still had some fans in this flight but I think the 89 Mount Langi had a better showing. 87/100

  • 1989 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    Another poor cork but the we must have just got to it in time as the wine was very pleasant. The nose is pretty classic with white pepper, some stems and earth. The palate is well structured, the tannins are still quite firm and it’s quite possible that they will outlive the fruit. Still, there is good flow of flavour through the palate and it doesn’t dip away. Drink now and in the short term. 90/100

  • 1995 Seppelt Shiraz Great Western – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    Charcoal, flint, roses and a bit of cherry still in the background – in fact the nose was a bit hard to pin down as there was a fair bit going on and it was shifting around with time, something that for me is always enjoyable when spending time with a wine. The palate is quite lithe, with good savoury texture and elegance. This had medium depth and probably slightly better length. I liked it more and more each time I came back to it in the flight, with the last sip being my favourite. Drink now and over the not too distance future but spend some time with it if you can. 91/100

  • 1996 Seppelt Shiraz Great Western – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    I last tried this wine 7 years ago and I loved it, thinking that 3-5 years would be a good time to come back to it. On this occasion it was just as good and possibly even a touch better. The nose is intense but at the same time it is quite pretty; there is red cherry, plum, some smoky meat and graphite. The palate has a core of bold fruit, but there is the structure and drive to keep it from ever feeling like a burden. Especially good persistence and length to it. A very different wine to the 1995 Seppelt Shiraz, but just as interesting and even has potential to improve. A friend mentioned he has had some bottle variation with this wine, this bottle was on song though. 93/100

  • 1995 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    Cloves and pepper, with a nice truffly earthy character – along with the cloves there is a touch of gamey animal element to it, which was possibly some low level brett – the good kind in this case! The palate is medium weighted, with soft red fruits combining with structure that is starting to fold into the wine. Good length and I’d be starting to drink these now. 91/100

  • 1996 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    Badly corked. NR/100

  • 1995 Rockford Cabernet Sauvignon – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    An interlude in the vertical to have with dinner. A bright high-toned nose of cherry, raspberry, licorice and plums. Palate is medium weight, showing a bit more development but still has quite pure red fruit and it is delicious. I don’t think it has the structure to age a large amount more, but it should make it to 20 years if the bottle is sound. 90/100

  • 1997 Seppelt Shiraz Great Western – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    Corked, a shame as I really wanted to see how this wine was travelling and also to have it next to the 97 Reserve. NR/100

  • 1997 Seppelt Shiraz Reserve Great Western – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    Quite a strong animale character, probably the most evident of all the Seppelt wines tried tonight for me – there is also leather, light mint and some charcoal. The palate is a good mix of forward fruit and more of that animale style meatiness. Still well structured, there are a lot of elements in play here and some additional years in bottle should have it showing very nicely. 91/100

  • 1997 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    Superb floral notes leap out of the glass at first, as well as leather and smoky meats – there was some funk/brett as well, at first it was just in the background but I found it start to come through more with time. The palate is pleasant but it doesn’t have the structure or driven character of some of the better wines tonight. Still very good and I’d be drinking this soon. 89/100

  • 1997 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Pavillon – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Smelled amazing at first but it seemed to recede into itself quickly – stalks, cherry, game and some light capsicum aromas. The palate is more impressive, with beautiful texture and length. It doesn’t have as much complexity as I would have hoped for and while the structure was fine, it wasn’t so imposing that I thought it would develop greatly over more than the medium term. It really didn’t stand above the other wines in this flight and even though was probably just my favourite wine of the flight, if you look at the comparative costs involved it was not good value, even though I know that this is not the best vintage for Hermitage. 91/100

  • 1998 Seppelt Shiraz Reserve Great Western – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    Pepper and spices, black cherry, blackberry and slightly charred coffee notes, it is cleaner in style than the 1997 Reserve but still has great complexity. The fruit is ripe and persistent but well controlled by some serious structural components. The texture and depth is brilliant and this was one of my very favourite wines on the night. This was very close in both style and quality to the 1998 St Peters in the same flight, but this just held the edge for me. 93/100

  • 1998 Seppelt Shiraz St Peters – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    Shows a fair bit of pepper and spices with cherry and graphite – it is quite similar to the 1998 Reserve, maybe being very slightly less intense. The structure is a bit looser on the palate in comparison, giving it a more open character and even seemed to be a bit more stylish with the fruit showing through a tad more, while still having a feeling of overall restraint. The fruit is still very deep and textured and it is probably more appealing right now while still having potential to age over the next 5+ years. It was a very close contest between this and the 1998 Reserve and the table was split equally as to their preference. 92/100

  • 1998 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    Sage and herbs, very earthy and some leather. It’s nicely savoury and complex on the nose, the palate isn’t as interesting unfortunately. It is fairly lightly weighted, which isn’t a problem in itself, but I felt the depth and length were not playing enough of a part to shine in this company. Drink now and in the short term. 88/100

  • 1999 Seppelt Shiraz St Peters – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    Lovely five spice aromatics here, there is also red cherry, liquorice and truffle. The palate is bold and fairly forceful, the balance is fine for me but the extra fruit intensity definitely stood out at this tasting. Very good, but with a bit more restraint and complexity on the palate it would be an even better wine, I’d like to see it in a few more years to track how it is progressing. 90/100

  • 2000 Seppelt Shiraz St Peters – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    The nose was fairly odd on this wine, I wasn’t sure if I liked it but in the end it was good over the course of the glass. There is a dark chocolate, nutty and very ripe berry character while also hinting at stalky and slightly green notes – with more time in the glass the green started to show through more. The palate is much more standard, with nice mouthfeel from some restrained red fruits and good length as well, while not having the same depth as some of the other wines in the lineup. Probably one of the weaker wines on the night even though it was interesting trying to work it out. 88/100

  • 1999 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    Black pepper, graphite, cherry and a light touch of leather – this seems to be very much classic Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz on the nose. The pepper carries onto the palate giving the red fruits an interesting kick, there is great texture and length here as well. Very consistent with a bottle from late last year, maybe a touch better even and probably my favourite Langi wine other than the 1992 tonight. 92/100

  • 2000 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    First bottle was not right, dirty and flat. NR/100

  • 2000 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    Considerably better bottle than the first. Chocolate and cherry on the nose with a just a hint at green character. The palate is medium bodied and quite well balanced initially, though it finishes slightly thin. Like many of the Langi wines, it does have plenty of character so it is interesting despite any downsides. 88/100

  • 2001 Seppelt Shiraz St Peters – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    The intensity and vibrancy ramps up a notch on this wine, almost as though it is considerably younger than some of the other bottles we tried from just a few vintages prior. Lots of licorice, violets, plum, blackberry and just a touch of regional spice. The oak is much better integrated since I last tried it close to release. The balance is really top shelf, the concentrated but vibrant fruit and very fine tannins work harmoniously and the length and drive is fantastic. There is a great deal of potential with this wine to develop over the next 10 years. 92/100

  • 2002 Seppelt Shiraz St Peters – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Great Western
    Five spice, red cherry, vanilla and violets – there isn’t as much leaping intensity compared to the 2001 but it is a little bit more deep and serious. The seriousness continue on the palate, with great purity and fruit richness that is reigned in by fine tannin structure and a framework of light oak. Still very primary in nature, but with great depth and the balance to age, I’ll leave my other bottle alone for another 7-10 years. I’ve tried this wine a number of times now – twice close to release when it was stunning and again about 4 years ago when it was awkward and relatively disappointing. I left my next bottle until now and thankfully I think it is swinging back upwards, even if it isn’t up to the same level as those early bottles just yet. 92/100

  • 2002 Mitchelton Shiraz Print – Australia, Victoria, Central Victoria, Nagambie Lakes
    A ring in to show a different style/region within Victoria. A nose with lots of bright fruit – cherry, blackberry and raspberry with graphite and peppery notes also. The fruit is bold but still has that bright quality to it, with good acidity playing a big part in balancing out the density. Has very good potential over the medium term as it is still very youthful now. 91/100

  • 1992 Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz Langi – Australia, Victoria, Western Victoria, Grampians
    Served blind by Dave at the end of the evening. Deeply coloured, I probably wouldn’t have guessed 20+ years old. Clean and engaging nose – black cherry, five spice, blackberry and liquorice. Beautifully balanced palate, with spicy savoury elements combined with the still bright mid weight fruit. Great length and very classy, this was a fantastic way to finish looking at these wines and my equal wine of the night. 93/100

Then a cavalcade of “backups” thanks to Dave including a 1970 Mildara Shiraz Cabernet Malbec, 71 Best’s Bin 0 that was sadly past it and some stunning whisky and bourbon!

Rare Burgundy Dinner - 1919, 1923, 1928, 1929, 1937, 1947 and more!

An amazing night two weekends ago as we gathered at Marque restaurant in Sydney, Australia for a Burgundy themed event, organised by a friend as part of his RareWineDinners business. The attendees included some familiar local faces as well as people that had flown in from Adelaide, Tasmania and even San Francisco!

I can happily report that except for 1 bottle that was really not showing well (unfortunately the DRC!), all the wines had character and life, with many in stunning condition. Of course this underlines the critical importance of provenance with these kind of wines – the majority of these bottles were sourced from two cold cellars in Europe where the wines had been purchased on release and stored until being brought over to Australia, 90 years later in some cases!

A few highlights were;

The 1985 Veuve Clicquot Rare Rose Champagne (disgorged 2007) to start was fantastic and a little bit surprising how much I liked it, considering I very often don’t care much for Rose Champagne.

The 1947 Violland Corton Charlemagne which was in brilliant form, lots of nutty aromas on the nose with richness, minerality and still having plenty of acidity to lift the wine. The 2000 Ramonet Batard Montrachet was the token young gun and it had amazing potential.

For the reds, the highlight of the night for me was the 1929 Drouhin Clos De Vougeot – a wine of exceptionally complex aromas, a classy and texturally beautifully palate that gained weight with time in the glass and above all it was just seductively delicious (a lucky person with experience in the area said that it was utterly classic 1929 Burgundy – unfortunately I don’t have the experience to say the same!). This was followed closely by the 1937 Bouchard Clos De Vougeot, 1923 De Beuverand & De Poligny Nuits St.G and the 1919 Rigault Vosne Romanee.

  • NV G. H. Mumm & Cie Champagne Cordon Rouge Brut – France, Champagne
    Served as a palate cleanser and arrival drink. Some lemon curd and apple on the palate. I found the palate to be very light intensity, with decent freshness but a serious lack of depth. Okay value for Champagne, but I prefer many Australian sparkling wines at a similar price point. 86/100

  • 1985 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé Rare – France, Champagne
    Disgorged 2007. Redcurrant, earthy, lemon and honeycomb notes on the nose. There is lovely vibrant acidity to go along with the medium weighted richness. Great length and really impressive, especially considering Rose Champagne often leaves me underwhelmed. Good bottles will continue at this very high level for some time to come. 93/100

  • 1947 Louis Violland Corton-Charlemagne – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
    Almost the same golden colour as the 1978 Lafon, this was just slightly darker in the core. The nose does have lots of aged elements, but it retains a sense of freshness – there is orange peel, lots of nutty aromas and some old oak and mint. The palate has a fantastic line of acidity, which some felt was clearly added by the winemaker but I thought was nicely integrated. Alongside this bright acid and framing minerality is good richness that built when given time in the glass. A very classy wine in brilliant form. 93/100

  • 1978 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault
    Grilled almonds on the nose, with ginger and a little resin element. The medium length palate is fairly soft but has glimpses of minerality that held my interest. Very good but it would be great with a little bit more drive and persistence. It is holding but I don’t think it will improve from here based on this bottle. 89/100

  • 1986 Marquis de Laguiche (Joseph Drouhin) Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Montrachet Grand Cru
    Quite reticent nose with light florals, honey and some pineapple, possibly from some botrytis influence. The palate has rounded out well and has very good balance, assisted by a flash of acidity at just the right moment. Improved in the glass after some vigorous swirling and while I liked it a lot, it didn’t quite deliver enough complexity to rate this higher. Drink now. 91/100

  • 2000 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    The token young gun at this tasting. Mint, lime, spicy/toasty oak and apple aromas. The palate was especially true to the Ramonet house style – with layered and powerful fruit paired with superb tension, focus and length. Above all, though it is a outstanding wine already, the potential to improve is very much evident. 94/100

  • 1929 Joseph Drouhin Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    A stunning nose – spices, tea, cherry, roses, autumn leaves and some cocoa. The palate is beguiling, still possessing alluring red fruit and complex earthy spices. The layers of flavour, texture and especially the length are verging on out of this world. While it doesn’t have the outright structure of some of the other wines tonight, it is beautifully balanced and drinking perfectly now. Magic. 96/100

  • 1919 Leon Rigault Vosne-Romanée – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Vosne-Romanée
    Bramble, raspberry, rhubarb and very nice clove and earthy aromatics. Medium bodied and with a real purity to the fruit that is just unbelievable for the age. Not only is the palate fresh and lifted by this pure fruit, there is earthy complexity and even has fine structure with tannins still there to guide the wine. Totally outstanding. 94/100

  • 1923 De Beuverand & De Poligny Nuits St. Georges – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Nuits St. Georges
    Opened up wonderfully even a short time after pouring with tar and roses, musk and ground coffee all present. The structure on the palate had me reeling in consideration of just how good it was – at 90 years of age it was not my expectation but the tannins were perfectly placed and really gave the wine a feeling of great purpose and balance. Not quite as complex as some of the other wines that were highlights tonight, but I loved it all the same. 93/100

  • 1929 Pierre Bourée Fils Gevrey-Chambertin Clos de la Justice – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
    I adored the nose on this wine right from the first moment, it subdued a little bit over time but they still had me captive – complex spices, incense, cherry, pencil shavings and earth. The nose was hard to live up to, and for me the palate didn’t really manage it – it was taut and not willing to give much back, the length was good but it terms of depth it just wasn’t there as much as I tried to find it. Still very good and on almost any other night it might have starred. 90/100

  • 1937 Bouchard Père et Fils Clos Vougeot – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Clos Vougeot Grand Cru
    Incredibly pretty aromas right away – highly perfumed florals, spice, truffle and a wisp of smoke. The palate has superb poise, it is balanced with a precise line of acidity and some delicious cherry fruit. Complex, depth and having great texture, this is a wine of immense class that is both appealing and extremely interesting. 94/100

  • 1951 Arthur Barolet et Fils Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
    The nose is earthy and nutty, with a fair bit of volatile acidity and a yeasty character. The palate is better with some acidity to carry the light fruit but it is still lacking a bit in interest and depth. There is still life and it is entirely decent to drink, however it was just not up to scratch tonight with the interest that the other wines had to offer. 87/100

  • 1961 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Richebourg Grand Cru
    Very earthy nose, it is smoky with mulch and an edge to it that is port like. The palate for me was showing less obvious aged character, it has a sense of structure and fruit rather than either being obvious. Drinkable but probably not a bottle in great condition and certainly not meeting the lofty domaine reputation. NR/100

  • 1961 Pol Mairesse Richebourg – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Richebourg Grand Cru
    A nose that took some getting used to – there is dettol and deep heat, with lots of charcoal, gunpowder, stems and boot polish. It had plenty of interest, though it is not particularly easy to like. The palate is more conventional, with cherry fruit and some of that stemmy character coming through. The finish is a little bit short. Overall even though I think it was a bit too confronting for me, I can’t recall drinking anything quite like it and I valued the chance to try it. 87/100

  • 1928 Chevillot Tâche-Romanée Grand Cru – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, La Tâche Grand Cru
    A very fitting way to end the burgundy flights. There was plenty happening on the nose with five spice and hoisin, coal, red cherry and strawberries. The palate was quite elegant and restrained and while it did become a bit more expansive with time, it didn’t end up having the power or weight I might have expected from a La Tache based wine. Despite that, it was still lovely to drink with medium length and a gentle finish. Some people mentioned that it was more what you might expect from a 1928 compared to some of the other wines that were still quite impressively vibrant – not that this was falling over but it was certainly time to drink it. 91/100

  • 1976 Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt a. Main Hochheimer Domdechaney Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese – Germany, Rheingau
    Good freshness and plenty of style on the nose – there is apricot, pineapple, pear and peach along with dense honey and caramel. The palate is lovely, with the acidity really driving and lifting the wine into a long finish. I do feel like this wine was on the cusp of brilliance and others at the table that have had another bottle indicated that the previous bottle had more intensity while maintaining the same impressive balance, something that I think would take it onto that next level. 92/100

I recently attended this new release tasting for Torbreck at North Sydney Cellars. I am generally a fan of David Powell’s wines, but one of the big surprises for me on the night was the quality of the two white wines on offer, as I have previously either disliked or been very underwhelmed by the white wines from Torbreck – on this evening they were both interesting and great to drink, especially the Steading Blanc.

Of course the big guns were the main draw to the tasting, and they all had impressive elements – my favourites being the Les Amis Grenache, Factor Shiraz, Run Rig Shiraz Viognier and Laird Shiraz. On the whole this was a very strong showing and the Torbreck portfolio seems to keep improving every time I come back to it.

  • 2011 Torbreck Woodcutter’s Roussane Viognier Marsanne – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Eden Valley
    46% Roussanne 41% Viognier 13% Marsanne. Floral nose with some lime and pear notes. The palate is medium bodied, hinting at richness but held back by good acidity that also gives the wine a fresh lift. 88/100

  • 2012 Torbreck The Steading Blanc – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    44% Marsanne, 32% Roussanne, 24% Viognier. Floral as well, but compared to the 2011 Woodcutters next to it, the floral notes are much more intense and wild – there is also wax, flint and apricot. The palate has excellent mouth feel and good texture, it is quite rich in style but great fruit purity is still maintained. Very impressive and I liked it more and more every time I came back to the glass. 90/100

  • 2011 Torbreck (Cuvée) Juveniles – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    62% Grenache, 23% Shiraz & 15% Mataro. Pepper, violets and some meaty elements – I found the nose to have good interest, especially at this level. The palate continues the trend towards spice influence with restrained red fruit and medium length. Very good, and a pleasant experience after some much less appealing examples in previous vintages. 89/100

  • 2012 Torbreck Shiraz Woodcutter’s – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Cherry, blackcurrant, lightly sappy and light spicy aromas. Medium depth on the palate, with some decent fruit, it is good to drink but for me it’s not really exciting in any aspect. 87/100

  • 2010 Torbreck Grenache Les Amis – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Very appealing aromatics for me – dark cherry/kirsch, rose, dark chocolate and there is plenty of oak but I felt the fruit matched it for intensity. The palate is lovely, with ripe, intense fruit paired with great structure and a savoury spicy edge. Needs plenty of time to age and integrate but I think it will be excellent. 92/100

  • 2010 Torbreck Mataro Kyloe – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Aromas that could either fall on the side of brett or a character of mataro – either way it was strongly gamey, with truffle, earth and cherry notes. The palate has that meaty character to it as well, but the red fruit shows through a bit better here. Has good length to it and if it’s brett I don’t think this bottle suffered too much from it. I’ll look out for chances to try future vintages as it seems promising and the price is fair. 89/100

  • 2009 Torbreck Descendant – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    92% Shiraz, 8% Viognier. Candied apricot, smoke, tar, raspberry and some bramble aromas. I like how the palate has quite rich fruit, but it is still bright with a lovely line of acidity, and the tannin structure here seems spot on to let that vibrancy show through now while still having potential. 91/100

  • 2009 Torbreck Shiraz The Factor – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Cherry, plum, earth, tar and floral notes. Beautifully balanced, it has powerful and rich fruit, and the tannins are similarly quite big in order to provide a frame for the palate. Fantastic carry of flavours and length. Very youthful, but very very good. 92/100

  • 2010 Torbreck Run Rig – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    95% Shiraz, 5% Viognier. Very floral on the nose, with supporting blackberry, spices and dark cherry. The palate has extremely bright but powerful fruit and outstanding depth and textural elements. Comes across as more classy than would be expected with this level of concentration but it is all in balance and really delicious. 94/100

  • 2008 Torbreck Shiraz The Laird – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Served next to the 2010 RunRig, this is amplified in almost every aspect. Cocoa, ground coffee, outrageously floral perfume, blackcurrant and raspberry aromas. The layers of fruit are amazingly dense but they have real definition and texture to them, saving the wine from being one dimensional. Outstanding length and a great experience to taste it. 94/100

Screaming Eagle

Just some quick TNs on a great set of wines with a few friends over dinner. I haven’t had a Screaming Eagle before, I have to assume very few end up in Australia, so it was a privilege to try one.

  • 2002 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année – France, Champagne
    Toast, talc, apple and lemon rind aromas on the nose. Palate is excellent, with fantastic acid drive and pure fruit persistence. There is depth and texture, though I found this wine to be surprisingly delicate for Bollinger GA, the power is still there in the background but very much restrained. I thought this was brilliant and has good aging potential. 93/100

  • 1995 Pol Roger Champagne Brut Vintage – France, Champagne
    Served blind. Pear, apple and some slight honeyed character emerging. The palate is very well balanced and it has great cleansing acid that leaves you wanting more. Has come along very well since I last tasted it and it still has room to develop further. 90/100

  • 2004 Domaine Ramonet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot Blanc – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru
    Served blind. Floral nose with pear, lemon, oyster shells and mint supporting. Very good tingly acidity on the refined palate. The fruit that is there is delicate and has excellent persistence. A lovely wine with time on it’s side. 92/100

  • 2004 Cullen Wines Chardonnay – Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Margaret River
    Served blind. Bright citrus fruit on the nose with some spice and lovely floral background. There is some power behind the fruit on the palate, but a beautiful line of acidity keeps the wine in balance. Texturally very good and I was pleased when this was revealed as it is a wine that I have really liked in the past and this time was no different. 92/100

  • 1988 Huët Vouvray Moelleux Clos du Bourg – France, Loire Valley, Touraine, Vouvray
    Honeyed with ginger and pineapple as well as strong floral perfume. Palate has more richness than I had expected based on some other reviews, but it is more ripe fruit sweetness than lots of sugar. There isn’t a great deal of complexity just yet, but it is very tasty. There is still plenty of freshness, so I don’t think you need to be in a hurry to drink it and hopefully the complexity emerges. 91/100

  • 2009 Domaine G. Roumier / Christophe Roumier Chambolle-Musigny – France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Chambolle-Musigny
    Ripe fruited nose, with cherry, raspberry and musk. The palate is rich as well but there is good acidity countering and it has the structure to hold together. It will age, but it is pretty appealing right now as well in its youth. 90/100

  • 1992 Château Smith Haut Lafitte – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    A pretty classic bordeaux that showed much better than the vintage suggests it should. There is briar, tobacco, graphite and some stalky character (not too much though). Medium bodied, it is integrated and drinking near to its peak. Probably finishes just a tad shorter than I’d like, but it is not a big problem overall. 89/100

  • 1978 Château Lafite Rothschild – France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
    A nicely complex nose of tobacco, pencil shavings, blackberry, cedar and earthy elements. The palate has excellent drive still, with medium weighted fruit surrounded by the structure that has almost seamlessly merged into the wine. Very classy and I would say that it is ready to drink now and over the next few years. 92/100

  • 2002 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Layered aromas of graphite, kirsch, cassis, dark chocolate and tobacco. I was not at all expecting how refined and nuanced this was going to be on the palate, in fact I found it to be quite compellingly balanced. The fruit is beautiful and has real depth to it as well as plenty of character. I’d love to see it in another decade or so, but realistically probably won’t get the chance to do so! This was not the wine that I was really expecting, but found it seriously great anyway. 94/100

  • 2001 Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Castello di Nipozzano Mormoreto Toscana IGT – Italy, Tuscany, Toscana IGT
    Stems, raspberry and blueberry fruit aromas along with a lightly earthy spiciness. The palate is medium bodied, there is some dark rich fruit that is reigned in by well proportioned tannins. Drinking nicely now but a few more years won’t hurt. 90/100

  • 1997 Domaine Jo Pithon Coteaux du Layon Chaume – France, Loire Valley, Anjou-Saumur, Coteaux du Layon Chaume
    Darkly coloured which was of some concern but the wine turned out to be in fine condition. Aromatically appealing with pineapple, honey, toast, sultana and a fleck of ginger. Delicious palate has medium richness and very good length. While the complexity is lacking slightly, it is still very good to drink. 90/100

  • 2007 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Auslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Lime, pineapple, spice and subtle white floral notes. The palate has good purity and sweetness, with some mouth-watering acidity lifting the wine as a whole. I last tried this a couple of years ago and it is has not had a chance to change much yet. I also tried the Auction GK Auslese #15 a few months back and it was a large step up in depth and excitement, despite that I really enjoyed this standard Auslese #17. 91/100

Not much preamble to this one, this was a great tasting hosted by a friend recently. All the white burgundy were served blind and provided by our host and one guest. After that it was on to the various “backup” bottles, they were a mix of blind and not and brought along by the various attendees.

  • 2000 Pol Roger Champagne Brut Vintage – France, Champagne
    Pears, honey and some nutty style notes on the nose. Palate has nicely rich fruit and good persistence. Drinking well now but will hold as well. 90/100

  • 1996 Daniel-Etienne Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Les Lys – France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
    Very dark colour. Oxidative nose. Palate is harsh and didn’t come around with time. I don’t seem to have much luck with these Defaix bottles. NR

  • 2008 François Raveneau Chablis – France, Burgundy, Chablis
    From a plot opposite to the Vaillons slope. Lemon pith, orange, musk and a flinty minerality. Great acidity and texture to the palate, with nicely rich fruit and fine length. Has very good potential to improve over the medium term. 90/100

  • 2007 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru
    Aromas of chestnuts, perfumed florals and peaches. Texturally the wine is excellent and the depth of the fruit really stood out to me. Has some intensity but I couldn’t help but feeling that it was holding a little bit back and may be waiting to show more in 5-10 years time. 92/100

  • 2010 Domaine Jacques Carillon Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Macherelles – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru
    Basil, florals and lime on the nose. Some spice to the palate, there is also some textural interest and appeal even though it is evident from the soaring acidity that it is very youthful. Very good! 90/100

  • 2009 Domaine Morey-Coffinet Bâtard-Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru
    Aniseed, musk, peach, honeysuckle and floral aromas. Very tightly wound on the palate, it only hints at richness with a creamy and silken mouthfeel. Great length and balance, with the structure to age well. 92/100

  • 2009 Bouchard Père et Fils Montrachet – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Montrachet Grand Cru
    Citrus peel, stonefruit along the lines of apricot and peach, light smoke and a huge wave of chalky minerality. Scintillating palate, incredibly driven with seriously impressive focus. I found that it soared in the glass, taking on more persistence and richness. Extremely good length. 94/100

  • 2008 Henri Boillot Corton-Charlemagne – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru
    Very interesting nose of tobacco and coriander with pear and white floral notes. Heavily viscous and very ripe palate, though it does have enough acidity to keep up. Not as steely as I would expect from a stereotypical Corton but very good all the same. 92/100

  • 1996 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault 1er Cru Charmes – France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Meursault 1er Cru
    The nose here is interesting and probably divisive, there is a very nice honeyed nutty character but also some estery elements and some eucalypt that are a bit out of place. The palate is rich and beautifully textured, though the length is probably just not quite up to where it ought to be. Drink now based on this bottle. 90/100

  • 2000 Mount Mary Chardonnay – Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Yarra Valley
    Though there was some disagreement, this was corked in my opinion. NR

  • 2005 Scarborough Chardonnay Yellow Label – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Floral nose, with popcorn and lemon butter. Good freshness, with the acidity giving it a great lift. Similar in profile to when I last tasted it 5 years ago, though it has come together and developed nicely. Should continue to do well over the next 4-5 years. 89/100

  • 1993 Zind-Humbrecht Riesling Rangen de Thann Clos St. Urbain – France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru AOC
    Dark coloured but not more than expected. Honey, marmalade, some botrytis, spice and floral aromas. Palate is very well balanced with great acidity and fruit restraint, it only hints at a light splash of residual sugar (though it is technically 28 g/l). Opened up more with time in the glass and I thought it was an interesting wine. 91/100

  • 1970 Tulloch Shiraz Pokolbin Dry Red – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    From half bottle. Toffee, licorice and some chocolate. The palate is just barely holding on to life, there is a sliver of fruit remaining. It fell over reasonably quickly in the glass but I was glad to try it. 86/100

  • 2005 Spinifex Indigène – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Spice, very earthy with beetroot and a dusty talc character. Palate has a dense jammy element to it, but I didn’t think it was over the top and there is decent structure around it. In a good place for drinking now and over the next few years. 90/100

  • 2005 Grant Burge Abednego Mourvedre-Grenache-Shiraz – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Raspberry, licorice, some oak and kirsch. Lots of blueberry fruit on the palate, it is stylistically bold and headily intense. Rather good in its style and around another 5 years aging would probably be worthwhile. 90/100

  • 1995 Brokenwood Shiraz Graveyard – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Coffee/mocha aromas, with lots of Hunter Valley style from the leather and some low level (but not unpleasant) brett. Quite well rounded on the palate, there is a good interplay of savoury and sweet fruit notes. To me it probably just lacks a little structure to take the step to excellent. 91/100

  • 1996 La Granja Nuestra Señora de Remelluri Rioja – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alavesa, Rioja
    Very appealing perfume of white pepper, earth, cherry and some leather, it was much cleaner in comparison to the Shiraz it was served next to, but it had complexity and character of its own. Very savoury on the palate, it had lovely balance and the structure here was more impressive. Drink now and over the next few years. 92/100

  • 1990 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Coonawarra
    Very classic in style I thought – unmistakeably Coonawarra Cabermet. Blackberry and mulberry, toasted oak and some light mint. Great fruit/structure balance, it is still youthful but it has gained complexity and character. In a good spot for drinking but should hold/develop further. 91/100

  • 2003 Seppelt Shiraz Benno – Australia, Victoria, Central Victoria, Bendigo
    Rosemary, pepper, licorice, menthol and a fair bit of oak still showing on the nose. Medium bodied on the palate, the tannins are still exerting quite a bit of influence. I last tried this 7 years ago and the oak was dominating at that point, it has softened and melded a little bit but probably needs more time still, maybe another 7 years. 89/100

  • 2011 Fonty’s Pool Pinot Noir – Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Pemberton
    Cherry and cranberry along with some stalks and strawberry. The palate is lightly structured but there is good persistence to the fruit. Didn’t get drowned out even though there were some big wines served prior to it. 88/100

JJ Prum Goldkapsel

Last Thursday I headed into the recently opened QT Sydney Hotel and its Gowings Bar & Grill in order to attend the annual Joh. Jos. Prüm frühstück, a breakfast tasting hosted by the Australian wine importer Bibendum. On this occasion the wines tasted were from 2011, a year in which the winery celebrates its 100th vintage.

The majority of the wines that are brought into Australia were shown at this event, from the estate Kabinett to the four Auslese Goldkapsel. There was also an minuscule amount of Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese from 2011, but these will be released at a later point in the future.

J.J. Prum is one of my favourite Mosel based wineries, which is probably not a controversial opinion given the respect they hold worldwide. I’ve tasted many of their wines with some age, including all the way back to a 1964 Wehlener Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Auslese late last year, and can confirm that their aging potential is not in any way over stated as the 1964 seemed like it could hold for another 10 years at least and other older wines have seemed to be on similar trajectories.

There is also a perception that wines from J.J. Prum are totally unapproachable when young. This is something I’ve heard repeated over and over again but this tasting went a long way to changing my mind, at least for this vintage. The majority of the wines were open and in many cases were outright delicious to drink right away while still showing that they have enormous potential.

Overall the wines were extremely impressive, with great finesse and a purity of fruit that I view as critical for top level German Riesling. While it isn’t possible to judge a vintage on the results of one producer and a few vineyards, this was clearly yet another very successful year for J.J. Prum, and I’m looking forward to trying some of the other Mosel producers 2011s that are coming into Australia in the next few months.


  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Kabinett -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    Lemon, lime, peach and a tinge of earth on the nose. The palate continues the ripe peach character and has medium carry. Pretty tasty wine, though it doesn’t show a great deal of drive or acid structure. Drink over the next five or six years. 87/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    Immediately appealing aromas – with wild floral perfume, spice, pineapple and peaches. The acidity takes an obvious step up from the standard Prum Kabinett, and as a result there seems to be more drive and persistence. Compared to the 2011 Graacher Himmelreich and Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinetts it doesn’t have the same level of purity or richness, but there is plenty to like here. 89/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    The minerality on the nose is impressive – it is steely, flinty and very slate driven, with some light spice and pear aromas. The purity across the palate is pervasive, with the minerality dominating and giving great lift and freshness to the wine. Racy acidity provides excellent precision and balances the flirtatious sweetness with ease. Excellent showing for this wine and it has great potential to improve. 91/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    There is a floral element to the nose, but it is less wild and more restrained than the 2011 Bernkasteler Badstube – there is also peach, pear and apricot coming through. The richest and most intense of the four Kabinett in this flight on the palate, it has the necessary acidity to carry the wine and give it structure. A touch more focus would take this to the next level for me but it is delicious to drink already and should also improve given time. 90/100


  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Spätlese -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    Musk, graphite and florals that came through increasingly with time in the glass. There is good richness and acidity, both are a level up on the Kabinett from the same vineyard and vintage, but it suffers a bit from not having much depth to the fruit. 88/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    Pear, spices, an earthy note and some light herbs. Very good balance between acidity and sweetness, with fine focus as well. Nice purity and intensity to the fruit which lingers on the palate. More interesting than the Bernkasteler Badstube Spatlese and competes with the high quality of the next two wines. 90/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    Lemon, light white florals, smoke and the same minerality with flint and slate that I found on the Kabinett. Truly delicious palate that offers beautiful purity and is superbly balanced with the acidity providing a vibrant framework. This is light on its feet but still has excellent depth and length. Kept improving in the glass during the short time I could spend with it. 92/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    Apple pie, peach, apricot and a light layer of slate on the nose. The palate is densely weighted with ripe fruit but again the acidity rises to the challenge and balance is found if not quite having the outright finesse of some of the other wines right now. Likely to be worthy and in need of a bit more time than the Kabinett. 90/100


  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    Wild florals, ginger, lime and light honey aromas. The excellent core of acidity stands out with lovely sweet fruit consistent across the length. There is sugar sweetness too but it is intertwined with the other elements and doesn’t feel at all out of place. Good for drinking now and should develop well over the medium term. 90/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    This was probably the most tightly wound 2011 Prum at this tasting. The nose has some lemon, apple and pear, and it opened up a little bit in the glass but is still aromatically reserved. A delicate palate with great acidity, the depth and structure is suitably impressive that I am sure it will emerge from its shell and start to delight, but it needs time and the conservative score reflects that. 90/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    This was the first flight where the Wehlener Sonnenuhr powered ahead of the Graacher Himmelreich for me. The nose is vivid with apricot, lemon zest, apples, honey and subtle smoke. The finesse on the palate is stunning, beautifully ripe fruit is precisely guided by wonderful acidity. It is easy to be immediately enamoured with this wine but there is underlying depth and complexity to it as well. Immensely classy wine with a very long future ahead. 93/100

Auslese Goldkapsel

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    Intense and exotic aromas showing ginger, sea spray, graphite, pineapple and apricot. The palate is similarly intense but the balance is spot on thanks to a wave of cleansing acidity that lifts and drives into a long finish. There is a serious ramping up of the deliciousness over the Auslese thanks to the botrytis characters shining through. Excellent and a clear favourite for me from the Bernkasteler Badstube in this vintage. 92/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    The botrytis stands out on the nose and lends it an exotic flare, it is supported by honey, smoke and passion fruit characters. The palate is very punchy and forceful, the botrytis again showing through and quite a bit of residual sugar as well. I actually found it to lean a bit too far towards being over-opulent and not quite having the acidity to finish entirely cleanly. It’s still very good, but just falls a bit behind the other 2011 Prum Auslese GK at this stage. 90/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    A floral nose with grapefruit, apricot, lemon and smoke, it was much more open than the Graacher Himmelreich Auslese at this point. The palate truly shines with astonishingly pure fruit and an extraordinary frame of acidity. Textured and deliciously long, this really soared in the glass and I imagine it will be an even more stunning wine given time. I found it hard to split this and the Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel, but it is exceptional in any context. 94/100

  • 2011 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel -
    Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer

    A compellingly layered nose – there is peach, honey, apricot, quince and botrytis influence. The palate is breathtaking in its purity and balance, it is wonderfully textured and the ripe fruit is ever-present but never out of control thanks to the crackling acidity. A wondrous wine and a fitting end to this tasting of the 100th vintage from J.J. Prum. 94/100

US wine is not something that we get a huge amount of exposure to in Australia, probably at least partially due to the prices for the wines ending up sky high by the time shipping and taxes (in the region of 40%) are applied, so whenever I get a chance to try some I am always up for it.

This particular dinner was put on by Stewart Plant with a Melbourne based retailer, Fine Wine Merchant. Stewart has a keen interest in US wines and brings a small amount into the country when possible. The original theme was going to include a wider geographical selection of wines but in the end was restricted to a few sections of California and some highly rated wines that he thought would be impressive.

This was my first time trying all of the specific vintages of these wines, and for most of the producers the first time I’ve encountered them as well, so it was fun to not really have a preconceived idea about the reputation of specific wines or years.

As is hopefully evident by my notes I was really blown away by the Bond Estates wines. I was impressed that even though they had some family resemblance they were all distinct wines that stood out as individuals rather than blurring together with overly strong winemaker signatures. Unfortunately for me the retail prices once they get here are probably too much for me to justify, but hopefully I’ll be able to save my pennies and look to acquire a bottle of a different vintage to try at some stage.

Varner Chardonnay

  • 2010 Varner Chardonnay Spring Ridge Vineyard Amphitheater Block – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Quite restrained on the nose, with lemon, apple, spice and some graphite. The palate is a little bit more forward, showing oak and more richness to the fruit profile. Perhaps finishes a touch short but it is very good. 90/100

  • 2010 Varner Chardonnay Spring Ridge Vineyard Home Block – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Smoky oak, lemon, chalk and some estery banana style character on the nose. The palate is well proportioned, though the oak influence is still prominent at this stage of its life. Has the structure to give it good potential to improve. 90/100

  • 2010 Varner Chardonnay Spring Ridge Vineyard Bee Block – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Flint, matchstick and pear aromas with some ginger and vanilla. Great structure to the palate, with some layers of complexity and it shows fine length. More interesting texturally than the Home Block and Amphitheatre Block that it was served next to, this improved with air and I really enjoyed it. 92/100

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

  • 2009 Neely Pinot Noir Spring Ridge Vineyard Hidden Block – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Stems, black cherry, smoke and cola aromas. Palate is forward with red berries leading. It isn’t overripe but I wouldn’t call it restrained either. Medium length and drinking well now. 88/100

  • 2009 Neely Pinot Noir Spring Ridge Vineyard Picnic Block – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Black currant, smoked meats, appealing floral notes, spice and cherries. The spice comes through on the palate too, there is medium fruit density and good driven acidity. I really liked this and think it will improve over the medium term. 90/100

  • 2009 Neely Pinot Noir Spring Ridge Vineyard Upper Picnic Block – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Cola, pepper and some light red berries. The palate is lean and there is a bit of bitterness that kicks in on the mid-palate. Lacks generosity and depth. Was the weak wine in this flight. 85/100

  • 2009 Rhys Pinot Noir Horseshoe Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Heady aromas of pepper, ginger and raspberry. Powerful (but bright) fruit on the palate with good acidity to keep things balanced. Very good length. There is heaps of character here and it took me a while to come around to it, but in the end I thought it was interesting and well worth trying. 91/100

Bond Estates

  • 2008 Bond Pluribus – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Graphite, liquorice, blackcurrant and a layered spice element in the background that lends intrigue. Outstanding persistence and depth on the palate, the structure is there as well with serious but ultra fine tannic presence. Incredible wine that should get even better with time. 95/100

  • 2008 Bond Quella – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Tobacco, tar, charry oak and some light cherry character on the nose. The fruit and tannins are well balanced, but even though the wine is high quality it lacks a little bit of depth to be really top class. No problems with drinking this young but also I think another 10 years would serve it well. 91/100

  • 2008 Bond Melbury – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Lovely floral, cherry and mixed spice aromas with a minerality to it as well. The palate has a restrained fruit profile with lovely purity and savoury elements coming through strongly. I found this restraint appealing and it even had an element of refreshment in this context of a flight of wines that have such density and intensity. Even though it may not have the same fruit power as some of the other wines, it still had great structure and length and was eminently classy in my opinion. 93/100

  • 2008 Bond St. Eden – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Rich and bold nose of blackberry, cassis, violets, tar and liquorice. Immensely structured, both the tannins and acidity are commanding, but they need to be in order to be in proportion with the dense and forceful fruit profile. A wine that is very impressive, but it also probably needs the most time in bottle out of the 2008 Bond range to really show its best. 93/100

  • 2008 Bond Vecina – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Aromas that really drew me into the wine – cassis, black cherry, truffle, earth and a lovely smoky edge. The palate is breathtaking, there is immense fruit power that somehow retains its brightness and purity, making for compelling drinking. The structure here is brilliant and it finishes with sensational length. I was left awestruck by this wine and given time to age I think it will become even more magnificent. 96/100


  • 2008 Sine Qua Non Syrah B 20 – USA, California, Central Coast
    Appealing nose of violets, charcoal, peppery spice and raspberry. The palate is certainly intense and powerful but it doesn’t get to the point where it was over the top. There is structure there, but it is overlaid with such delicious fruit that it plays its part without attracting much attention. One of those wines that is so very pleasurable over the course of a glass or two, but I don’t think I’d want to tackle an entire bottle on my own! 93/100

  • 2009 Saxum Syrah Booker Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Blackberry, liquorice, cola, oak and a lifted somewhat spirity character from the alcohol. A huge palate in the ultra ripe style, there is some spice that thankfully provided some dimension and interest aside from the fruit density. It has good length, though I could feel the alcohol following through a bit as well. 89/100

  • 2007 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Maybe this was in an awkward spot, but I found it quite hard to really get into. The nose shows sultana, earth, blackberry, sawdust and resiny oak. The palate carries across the sensation of substantial oak and I didn’t really feel like the fruit was up to the challenge even though there is quite a bit lurking. For me, not even close to greatness on this occasion. 87/100

Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2009 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Red Rock Terrace – USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
    Blackberry, kirsch, some floral notes and menthol aromas. The palate shows depth and power with a wave of fruit sweetness tempered by deft oak use and fine structure. There is good potential to improve significantly with age. 91/100

  • 2009 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Gravelly Meadow – USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
    Chocolate and earth are both assertive on the nose, there is also pepper and ground coffee elements. The palate is ripe and forward, with lots of jam styled red fruit and as a result it is approachable now. For my taste this lacks some finesse compared to the other two Diamond Creek wines tasted but it is still very good.89/100

  • 2009 Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Volcanic Hill – USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain
    Deep and dark aromas of blackberry, blueberry, tobacco, black cherry and cinnamon. Full bodied on the palate with decisive intensity and power. This has serious tannin structure and is probably the least approachable of the three Diamond Creek wines tried at this dinner, but it also has the most potential over the long term. 92/100

1959 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg feine Auslese

I was fortunate to attend this small dinner a couple of weekends ago organised by a friend in Sydney, Australia. The theme was based around one of his great passions, German Riesling and as usual he did a great job in the careful sourcing and planing for this dinner. The restaurant Fix St James did a fine job as well, with the food matching as well as wine service – if you are in Sydney and looking for a casual place to eat in the CBD with an interesting wine list, it is pretty hard to beat in my opinion.

The highlights for me were as follows (with plenty of interesting and very good wines closely behind!) ;

1964 Kesselstatt Niedermenniger Herrenberg Auslese
1959 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg feine Auslese
1975 Winzergenossenschaft Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Eiswein Beerenauslese
1976 Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt a. Main Hochheimer Kirchenstück Trockenbeerenaulese

Flight 1 – Same vintage, producer, vineyard but one prädikat level apart

  • 1976 Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt a. Main Hochheimer Kirchenstück Riesling Kabinett – Germany, Rheingau
    Very slightly darker in colour than the Spatlese it was next to. The nose offers earth, ginger and toast. On the palate, the remaining fruit is fading away but there is a good level of acid initially giving some freshness and lift. The wine drops away toward the finish, becoming very slightly bitter from the oxidative characters. Not bad overall. 86/100

  • 1976 Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt a. Main Hochheimer Kirchenstück Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau
    Good golden tinged colour. More expressive on the nose than the Kabinett next to it – marmalade, pineapple, pear and some peaches. Palate is honeyed with that marmalade character coming through as well. There is acidity there but it is probably a little bit on the low side for my liking, some more would have really helped the palate step up to the sweetness. Very good regardless. 88/100

Flight 2 – Same vintage, prädikat and producer but different vineyard

  • 1988 Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach Steinberger Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau
    Aromas of pine needles, passion fruit, wet stones and some underlying spice. The palate has well woven acidity and there is good carry of clean flavour into the finish. While there is complexity emerging, you get the feeling that this wine has potential to improve further with time. 89/100

  • 1988 Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau
    Floral aromas drive the appealing nose, there are background notes of petrol, lemon and orange peel. The palate has lovely bright acidity that compliments the sweetness perfectly, giving the wine spot-on balance. Tasted next to the Steinberg Spatlese, though it has a clear family resemblance, there is just a little bit more of everything that helps this wine stand out – perfume, acidity, sweetness, depth and fruit purity. 91/100

Flight 3 – Rheingau Spatlese

  • 1976 Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach Steinberger Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau
    I found the nose slightly dull, there is some marzipan and earthiness but it didn’t really open up over the course of the glass. I though that he palate was brighter, it had some tasty light sweetness along with decent drive, though looking at it very critically the depth isn’t really there and thus it didn’t really have the interest I look for, though it was perfectly decent to drink. 87/100

  • 1966 Schloss Reinhartshausen Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Spätlese – Germany, Rheingau
    Aromas of melon, earth, honey and some light spice. The palate is clean, with good acidity and a lick of sweetness remaining. The wine trails away a little bit too early on the finish and I didn’t find much complexity here. It may have been slightly better with less bottle age and some more fruit but it seemed to be holding up well overall. 88/100

Flight 4 – Auslese

  • 1964 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Niedermenniger Herrenberg Riesling Auslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    Started off slightly muted but I found it lifted with air to show a highly perfumed nose – there are bright white floral aromas, slate, turkish delight, lime and pear. The palate is bright, with delicate purity and superb balance of acidity and sugar. A wine with excellent depth and length, this was in brilliant condition and a true pleasure to drink. 93/100

  • 1971 Schloss Eltz Rauenthaler Rothenberg Riesling Auslese – Germany, Rheingau
    Marmalade, caramel, apples and a slightly wooden oxidative character on the nose. The palate doesn’t show the same level of age, there is still a caramel tinged edge to it, but it enhanced rather than detracted from the experience for me. I thought the finish was a bit abrupt at first, but with air the mid palate gained some weight and the intensity seemed to carry better into the finish. Great wine, but drink now based on this bottle. 90/100

Flight 5 – feine Auslese

  • 1959 Karthäuserhof Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling feine Auslese – Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer
    A nose with impressive complexity, the initial aromas are in the smoke and tobacco spectrum, with time citrus comes to the fore through lime and tangerine notes as well as a soaring slate and mineral element. Beautifully balanced on the palate, with stunningly focussed purity and stellar acidity giving the wine a wondrous ethereal quality. Textured and with many layers of depth, this is a wine that challenges you to give it your full attention lest you miss some of its many subtle aspects. Seriously exceptional wine that showed no signs of tiring. 96/100

  • 1966 August E. Anheuser Kreuznacher Rosengarten Riesling feine Auslese – Germany, Nahe
    Apricot, stewed apple and some mint aromas. Very good intensity and sweetness pairs with an excellent core of acidity that lifts and drives the palate. Doesn’t have the same class or complexity as the 59 Karthäuserhof feine Auslese it was paired with, but it was interesting in its own right. 90/100

Flight 6 – Eiswine Beerenauslese

  • 1975 Winzergenossenschaft Meddersheimer Rheingrafenberg Riesling Eiswein Beerenauslese – Germany, Nahe
    Creme caramel, honey, orange peel and a salty sea spray character. Excellent acidity frames the palate and gives it a sense of finesse even though there is some serious dense fruit and sweetness. The acidity also contributes to the imposing length, driving the sweetness across the palate and leaving you wanting more. 93/100

  • 1979 Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach Steinberger Riesling Eiswein Beerenauslese – Germany, Rheingau
    An intense nose with roast peach, violets, brown sugar and apricot. Explosive on the palate, with the sweetness taking centre stage. The intensity and force of the flavour leaves an impression on your mouth, but I would value a little bit more restraint and balance in this case. Despite that, it is undoubtedly very good and it will probably live for quite some time given its current state. 91/100

Flight 7 – A return to the producer, vintage, vineyard of flight 1, at the TBA level

  • 1976 Weingut der Stadt Frankfurt a. Main Hochheimer Kirchenstück Riesling Trockenbeerenaulese – Germany, Rheingau
    Excellent complexity on the nose with graphite, gun smoke, coconut, orange peel and ginger. The wine displays superior balance, there is a rush of intense richness and minerality carried across the palate by a incredible core of acidity, leading into a finish that just refuses to end. Wonderfully complex and rich, this is truly great wine. 94/100

Alongside the 1944 Seppelt Sparkling Burgundy that I spoke about in the previous post, we had a number of other icon wines, including 2 bottles of the incredible Seppeltsfield 100yo Para.

  • 2000 Bay of Fires Arras EJ Carr Late Disgorged – Australia, Tasmania
    Wow. Stunning nose with great depth and power, there are aromas of toast, apple pie, lemon, pear, peach and some crème caramel notes. The palate is deliciously rich with enough acidity to keep it flowing across the palate. Fantastic stuff that I wouldn’t hesitate to put up against very good Champagne. 93/100

  • 1997 Tyrrell’s Sémillon Vat 1 – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    Colour looked fairly youthful. Reticent nose, there is some lemon and light toast. A little bit flat on the palate, lacking drive and either brightness or development. Not nearly as good as a bottle in June last year but much better than the badly corked bottle in March last year! 88/100

  • 1995 Penfolds Chardonnay Yattarna – Australia
    Bold nose of spice, honey, hazelnut and toast. Rounded and showing lovely richness on the palate, it still had enough drive and acidity to carry the flavours into a long finish. Has aged really well and is great for drinking right now. 90/100

  • 2005 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay Art Series – Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Margaret River
    Oats, lemon, oak and spices on the nose. Very appealing palate, it is finely balanced between some ripe fruit, bright acid line and great length. Has really started to come together and show some of its potential since I last tried it a couple of years ago and another couple of years should see it improve further. 92/100

  • 2005 Giaconda Chardonnay Estate Vineyard – Australia, Victoria, North East, Beechworth
    The nose was a little bit rubbery to begin with, but it quickly dissipated to show gunsmoke, vanilla, slate and some wax. The palate is decidedly rich but it has the acidity to handle it. For me it had the edge in texture over the 05 Leeuwin AS it was served next to, but it still needs a few more years to be at its best. 92/100

  • 2002 Brokenwood Shiraz Graveyard – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley
    First vintage of this wine under screwcap. Some floral notes with plum, cranberry and plenty of Hunter Valley style leather and earth. The fruit is definitely light-medium weighted but there is enough there that it isn’t an issue for me and it melded well with the more earthy elements. Very good for the vintage, this is a relatively short term drinking prospect and I think it was showing really well right at the moment. 91/100

  • 1994 Henschke Shiraz Mount Edelstone – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Eden Valley
    Corked. At first I thought it was only light, but it got worse and more noticeable quickly. NR/100

  • 1996 Rockford Shiraz Basket Press – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    Raspberry and blackberry on the nose, with cherry, leather and light licorice aromas. The palate is wonderfully balanced and refined, there is great depth to the fruit and it has excellent structure. Superb and really starting to live up to its early promise. 93/100

  • 1993 Penfolds Grange – Australia, South Australia
    86% Shiraz and 14% Cabernet Sauvignon. Blackcurrant, plum, vanilla and cinnamon aromas. Palate has good powerful fruit and very good length, but the depth of a top Grange isn’t quite there. Drinking well now and over the next 5 years. 91/100

  • 1995 Mount Mary Quintet – Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Yarra Valley
    Raspberry, spice and violets on the nose. The palate is light bodied and reasonably well balanced, for me though it doesn’t really have enough interest, there isn’t great complexity or all that much depth. 88/100

  • 1986 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon John Riddoch – Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Coonawarra
    Not a sound bottle. “Capsicum disaster” was my description, but there was some peppery and graphite aromas in the background. The palate was even less appealing unfortunately. NR/100

  • 1975 Wendouree Cabernet Malbec Shiraz – Australia, South Australia, Mount Lofty Ranges, Clare Valley
    Deep red coloured, it looked about 5-10 years old, not even close to 38! Tobacco, blackberry, some violets and quite earthy aromas. Palate is medium weighted and is quite enjoyable without feeling especially resolved or deep. Should continue to drink well for quite some time still, but I can’t really see it lifting greatly from here. 90/100

  • 1967 Lake’s Folly Cabernets – Australia, New South Wales, Hunter Valley, Pokolbin
    The first commercial release from Lake’s Folly. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Shiraz according to the label. Very typical nose of the Hunter Valley – leather, spice, earth as well as some cherry and smoke. Probably not at its very best on the palate but it is doing more than just hanging on, there is some length to it and there is balance even though it started to fade slightly after time in the glass. Another piece of history and a real treat to try. 91/100

  • 1996 Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon Moss Wood Vineyard – Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Margaret River
    Graphite, cedar, cassis and blackberry aromas. Has a bit more fruit power than the 96 Cullen served next to it, but it is well restrained and structured. Shows excellent length. I couldn’t split this and the Cullen the last time I tried them side by side (around 6 years ago), and I still can’t, both are excellent and with time on their side. 92/100

  • 1996 Cullen Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Merlot – Australia, Western Australia, South West Australia, Margaret River
    Tobacco, chocolate, blackberry and a light kirsch note. Medium bodied and really very well balanced, this is progressing very nicely since I last tried it about 6 years ago. It is still primary but it is coming together and integrating as hoped. Give it some more time and I think it should get even better. 92/100

  • 1888 Seppelt 100 Year Old Para Liqueur Vintage Tawny – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    A heady and intoxicating mix on the nose of raisins, caramel, coconut, ginger, rancio and dark chocolate – each note is so powerful it is as though it could stand on its own. Incredible richness and concentration on the palate with a balancing level of acidity that seems beyond belief. Unstoppable length, even after swallowing the wine has coated the mouth and persists brilliantly. Awe inspiring stuff. Right up there with the 1880, but the barest touch behind the 1905. 98/100

  • 1908 Seppelt 100 Year Old Para Liqueur Vintage Tawny – Australia, South Australia, Barossa, Barossa Valley
    There is a hit of VA to begin with that subsides to show a nose with lots of spice – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and pepper as well as cedar, milk chocolate and pencil shavings. The palate has a touch more freshness than the 1888, without perhaps having the same unfathomable depth, but it is exciting all the same, with brilliant length and power. There is a slight spirity note to the palate but it barely detracts from this treasure of Australian wine. 94/100

  • NV Morris Tokay Old Premium Rare Liqueur – Australia, Victoria, North East, Rutherglen
    Only had a small taste of this, but it was very good and held its own against some incredible wines. Ginger, caramel and chocolate aromas. Very smooth and well balanced on the palate with depth as well. 92/100

  • 2002 Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Odyssey – Australia, South Australia, Limestone Coast, Coonawarra
    Cherry, strong blackcurrant, tobacco and obvious but not overpowering oak influence. Palate has bold ripe fruit but there are savoury undercurrents that keep it interesting. The tannins are assertive but they do not dominate. I would give it another 5-6 years to give it time to develop before looking at it again. 91/100

  • 1995 Kay Brothers Shiraz Block 6 Amery Vineyards – Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
    Lots of chocolate, blackberry and cherry on the nose, with some US oak and pepper. Still youthful on the palate, with powerful fruit, plenty of tannin and good length. I think it could use some more time, probably another 6-7 years to fully develop. 90/100

  • 1997 Yeringberg – Australia, Victoria, Port Phillip, Yarra Valley
    White pepper, earth, vanilla and graphite aromas. Very good focus and balance on the palate, this is drinking well now and should continue to do so over the short-medium term. 91/100